Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Artist as Your Assumptions

Julie Heffernan is at PPOW until October 20, 2007. Her work is delicate and also bulldozing. Heffernan works in the midst of a sea of heavily appropriated imagery, painting in a style we associate with "traditional" portraiture and landscape. However, one quickly sees she is tongue- in-cheek, and the rest of one's viewing is spent putting ones finger on what she is up to.

Truthfully I can't figure her work out. There are 18th/19th century modes (games, morality, hunting, big skirts) contrasted with current issues. "Self Portrait with Men in Hats" surrounds our protagonist with ornaments detailing men in hats-- current men in power, such as our esteemed Leader and his Associates.

Also, the question of the game. Skirts made of freshly dead (not yet stiff) game animals-- deer, hare, pheasant. Another mode of our ornamentation/ vanity/ greed?

Another issue is that of identity. Somewhere in the literature about her work I read the red-haired protagonist is not actually the artist-- the title "Self Portrait as..." is itself a study in identity and assumptions. Role playing. What about questions of veracities in art? What about the metaphor of "self-portraits", of our roles and identities, especially as social construct?

There is a lot of smart in these paintings, and I admire her wit and intellect. I also admire her pairing/ playing language against content, and her explorations of our unexamined assumptions and social identities.