Oh-So-Cute & Creepy

Please give a warm welcome to our newest guest blogger, Caroline E. Willis! Caroline describes herself as “a writer and occasionally an archaeologist.” She also has a highly entertaining blog “about dressing up and hitting people with latex.” Needless to say, we like Caroline a lot. -Mer

“Sentimental” by Kathie Olivas, 2009, oil on canvas, 30”x40”. (Via)

“Most of us can agree on the artistic value of a Monet or Titian, but this work is for a daring audience, an audience open to exploring the strange beauty and the ecstasy inherent in our culture’s aversions.”

~Carrie Ann Baade
Guest Curator of the Cute & Creepy exhibition, FSU Museum of Fine Arts.

Drive past enough hazy bayous and bent oaks, sacrifice enough November butterflies on the altar of your windshield, and you’ll find something creepy in the heart of Florida. Carrie Ann Baade has collected the works of 25 fellow artists- works of beautiful, grotesque, adorable art- for the Cute & Creepy exhibition that’s currently taking Tallahassee by storm.

Over two-thousand people attended the opening- four times more than any other opening at the museum thus far, and some strange lure continues to draw unprecedented numbers to this show- a lure as hard to define as the subject of the show itself. Cute & Creepy is an exploration of boundaries, but the artworks on display do not so much “cross the line” as seem unaware that any boundaries exist. Each object is wholly itself; it is the viewers for whom categorization fails.

Toddlerpede 2.0” by Jon Beinart. 2011, mixed media sculpture, approximately 36”x36”x36”. Photo by Caroline E. Willis.

“The Worm Forgives the Plow” by Heidi Taillefer. (via)

Viewers of the exhibit tend to respond with exclamations of surprise and delight. Many of the pieces depict creatures that look to the past, but none poignantly than Kelly Boehmer’s mixed media sculpture, “Andromeda in the Ecstasy of Heartbreak.” It is a sprawling installation of yarn, cloth, and taxidermy that inverts the classical ending of Andromeda’s story: Andromeda is dead, Cetus is eating, and Pegasus is beheaded but alive and in tears. His rider, Perseus, is nowhere to be seen- though considering Perseus was invisible in the original myth, his lack of visibility combined with Pegasus’s presence raises questions.

“Andromeda in the Ecstasy of Heartbreak” by Kelly Boehmer. Mixed media. (via)

Thanks to videos of eyes that Boehner incorporates into much of her work, the sea monster Cetus’s can often make eye contact, startling anyone observing the scene and drawing them in. Closer inspection reveals a sort of fractal expansion of the original impression; the colors are bright, the fabric is soft, and small flower print pillows nestle cozily amongst Andromeda’s entrails:

Detail from “Andromeda in the Ecstasy of Heartbreak” by Kelly Boehmer. Photo by Caroline E. Willis.

“Andromeda” is just one sample of the many works on display, spanning several mediums; there are fairy tale creatures rendered in chalk, and Swarovski-and-oil paintings of amputee goats, and chandelier-like constructions made of increasingly small plastic army men. The breadth of the exhibit is truly fantastic, reinforcing one simple truth, as stated by Nancy E. Hightower in her catalog essay for the exhibition: “We need monsters in our lives.”

“The Unaccountable Absence of the Wastrel” by Richard A. Kirk. (via)

Baade’s note on the Cute & Creepy website celebrates the fact that the grotesque is going mainstream. In a discussion about why this was happening now, she said:

“All of the 20th century was about making a comment on things- saying that things were not good enough, or stupid. Now, I think that people are really searching for sincerity. When Nancy Hightower talked about something redemptive in the grotesque, I think part of that redemption is wanting to sincerely like something, and enjoy it, and find things that are meaningful. That’s what art that’s literal does: it builds meaning. It doesn’t want to play hard to get.”

Cute & Creepy runs until November 20th, 2011 at the Florida State University’s Museum of Fine Arts at 530 West Call Street, Tallahassee, Florida. The museum is open 9am – 4pm Monday – Friday and 1pm – 4pm Saturday – Sunday. It will be closed for Veteran’s Day. The museum is free and open to the public. Click here for more information.

Image: “Cosimo” by Jessica Joslin. Antique hardware, brass, bone, chrome jacket spikes, standoffs, antique glove leather, glass eyes. Photo by Caroline E. Willis.

The Cute & Creepy exhibition will be on display through November 20th, but the museum is closed on November 11th for Veteran’s Day.

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