By Grayson Barnes
WICHITA - One of the Wichita State University “Gaypril” events was an artist talk sponsored by the Cadman Art Gallery on campus -- its first such event. Three speakers, Alexander Moore, Sally Frater, and Kelsy Gossett participated in a PechaKucha format where they offered 20 slides for 20 seconds each through which they shared their work or projects they had been involved in.
Alexander Moore is working on his Bachelor’s in Studio Arts at WSU. He is also the Assistant for the Shift Space Gallery at 416 S. Commerce in Wichita.
Moore started his talk with images of his childhood. He disclosed that he had grown up gay in an accepting household, despite living in the “oppressive state” of Kansas.
This experience created his artistic interests in psychological landscapes, large- and small-scale views, power structures, and unusual materials.
A work by Moore that ticks off his first three criteria seems simple at first glance: two paintings on canvas, one on the wall and one on the floor. However, the floor piece is a HUGE work in muted pastels with irregular borders. Moore arranged the surface so that it is topographic, rather than flat like a traditional painting. It becomes a behemoth blocking the way so it is difficult for the viewer to interact with the TINY canvas on the wall behind it. The geography of the floor thus becomes a limitation.
Moore is also fascinated by materials he considers ‘abject.’ In Post-Structuralist theory, these are substances which disturb reality, and/or sensibility and convention. Fingernails parings are not what most would think of as an ‘art medium.’
However, Moore used these in his pseudo-taxidermy Hedgehog, along with a compendium of other, well, NOT hedgehoggy elements. His goal was to make us question art (taxidermy?), life (dead hedgehog?), and the aspects of us that are cast away (fingernails = abject) that can be a part of BOTH life and art – if/when we change our view(s).
Also presenting was Sally Frater, the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Ulrich Museum at WSU. Frater shared pieces by artists that she had worked with. All of them explored the identities of race, culture, and sexuality. The first artist Frater talked about was Michele Pearson Clarke, who was born in Trinidad.
In Clarke’s video work All That is Left Unsaid, there are clips of Audre Lorde inhaling and exhaling. There is no sound. Here, Clarke draws parallels between the iconic (“Black, Lesbian, Mother, Warrior, Poet”) Lorde (who was from the Caribbean) her own blackness and sexuality, and her mother. There is also an allusion to Lorde’s work, because Lorde was known to say “your silence will not protect you.”
We could even reference popular culture and tie in Star Wars: “It is all that is left unsaid upon which tragedies are built (Kreia, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords).” Clarke’s work stresses the necessity of communication.
Jorge Galván Flores’ oeuvre is a dialog about identity and how that shifts, as well as empire and commodity. Although these are deep subjects, there is a sense of play in his pieces.
One of his works, Espac-tacular, is a billboard. For the image, he trolled Google Maps and took two pictures, one from the street Paseo de los Heroes in Tijuana and one from the gardens at Versailles in France. He incorporated them seamlessly to create a composite.
This was inspired by Flores’ amusement that the manicured bushes (topiaries) – which to him symbolize dominion and empire – were also favored by the folks on the street in Mexico.
By Grayson Barnes
WICHITA - Artists who candidate for a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree have to do a ‘thesis’ too. Instead of creating a bound volume of their accumulated research (including citations) like other disciplines, artists have to show what they have learned in a visual format. Just like that book it is judged by a panel of scholars. The difference is, that book appears in a few copies. Maybe at some point someone will blow the dust off of it and read it. The artist’s Thesis Exhibition, however, is open to everyone. The artist bares her soul.
For Kelsy Gossett, who had her MFA Thesis Exhibition at the Diver Studio this past month, that soul-baring included some actual skin-baring. Not totally, though. She kept her undies on along with some other ‘outfits.’
Gossett chooses underwear and clothing for her videos specifically to subvert that women dress FOR men. Her work is about maneuvering through the quagmire of female fetishism and sexual suppression commercialized for the heterosexual male gaze.
Since Gossett’s work is video-based, a number of projection screens and televisions showing her films were strewn about the upstairs gallery at the Diver. The stripped warehouse space called to mind a shabby, low-budget movie studio whose output features skanky porn. I kept looking down to make sure I wasn’t tripping over taped-down camera cords or writhing bodies. This essentially made the place perfect for Gossett to show her stuff -- stuff reminiscent of photographer Cindy Sherman and the movie-making side of Andy Warhol.
On one screen, Gossett and another woman stood facing the camera or interacted with each other and a balloon (The Dance, 2016). Only their bodies were visible. They wore beige sports bras and “granny panties” made of that otherworldly stretchy fabric that is used for women’s underwear which, after repeated washings, turns amorphously beige no matter what pastel color it started out as.
The background was beige. There was no intimate touch, only friendly pats or strokes. Sometimes the balloon would be squished between them, but nothing about the women or their movement was meant to be provocative.
In conjunction with this was a series of laptops showing the online video chats that Gossett and her co-conspirator had with men over a period of eight hours. The men were able to watch the video and tell the women what to do. Then Gossett and her ally DID NOT do what was asked of them. Chats that started as complimentary (“you are very beautiful”) became insulting (“you b_tches”) when the men’s desires were not fulfilled.
In a series of vignettes made to look like cheap porn flicks, Gossett and a friend become “Vivian and Veronica.” According to Gossett, these girls “like to be looked at.” Vivian and Veronica play out roles in what appears to be someone’s apartment with appropriate setting materials changed out -- well, stuck to the wall by the bookcase – for the different scenes. They are Catholic schoolgirls, vixens in animal print, and doctor and patient. The irony is that A LOT of action happens, but no PHYSICAL intimacy occurs. It is like Gossett wrote the playbook for “Lesbian Fantasy Interruptus” in order to, again, subvert that male gaze.
WICHITA - An Act of God, a play by David Javerbaum, opens June 2 at Roxy’s Downtown starring Kyle Vespestad, David Stone, and Monte Wheeler.
The One with the first and last word on everything has finally arrived to set the record straight. After many millennia, and in just 90 minutes, God (assisted by His devoted angels) answers some of the deepest questions that have plagued mankind since Creation.
Adapted from Javerbaum’s book The Last Testament: A Memoir By God, the play began its initial run on Broadway at Studio 54 on May 28, 2015. It returned to Broadway at the Booth Theatre in 2016 for a limited engagement starring Sean Hayes of Will & Grace fame.
“Javerbaum’s radical rewrite of the Ten Commandments—the evening is structured around God’s introduction of revised laws—is clever and even refreshingly positive, insisting on the separation of church and state and encouraging us to believe in ourselves, not some elderly white guy in the sky.”
—Time Out (New York).
Roxy’s, located at 412 E. Douglas, doors open at 6:30pm, show starts at 8pm. Tickets range from $20-$30; call 316-265-4400 for reservations. 18 to enter, 21 to drink.
An Act of God runs through June 20 and is Directed by David Stone. l