very grateful to Hannah Dean for writing this review in The Bowerbird!
PRESS(v.) at 5&J
November 10, 2016
*PRESS(v.) is on view at 5&J by appointment only, until November 25th. Contact CASP at http://casp-arts.org.
PRESS(v.), the MFA thesis exhibition for Victoria Marie Bee, was a step above. Her large scans of various liquids, fabrics, flowers, and fruits are modern-day, sexy vanitas. At first glance they are beautiful, reveling in the senses, full of striking colors, lux textures, juicy bits of realism abstracted by glitter and milk.
As seen in “ & the buzzards came & undressed her,” they are carefully crafted, giving the viewer pure pleasure in their design. (I met with Bee the day following the opening, to ask about her process. She takes her time - often weeks - in preparing her petri-dish compositions, stacking fruit, underwear, orange soda, etc. into cheap glass photo frames. Then, she scans them throughout different stages of their decomposition.) Upon closer inspection (and reflection), they project a different purpose other than indulgence. As PRESS(v.) implies, the work speaks of not only the pressure used to make the images, but the emotional and physical pressures of a romantic and sexual relationship. The various tropes employed, the split oranges and cherries, champagne, and milk take on obvious meanings and stand-ins for the body, sexual devices. In “le petite mort,” I giggled and felt as though I was in on the effervescent joke. “Little death,” meaning orgasm.
Beyond the innuendo, there are more sinister tones to the work. The fluids that these fruit, lace, and beads float in are not preservatives, causing the “still-life” to go to ruin, the milk to curdle, the panties to mold. In the moments after the bubbles release in petit mort, they will fade, going flat. These tropes are not new, devices used to illustrate the brevity of life. Still, the potential for spoilage is short of a complete read for this body of work. It’s not that it doesn’t rend the viewer into the unglamorous, even savaged moments of love and/or sex, it’s just that the work is so dang gorgeous. Unlike the vanitas tradition, these don’t leave me thinking of spiritual ideals, coming away moralized by the images. Instead, I revel in the gratification of the work, the sensual pressing of objects into glass, as if to give testament to the good times. Feeling elevated, rather than humbled by or dismissive of beauty is a rare treat, and Bee delivers.
*The author's opinions are her own. Photos courtesy of the artist.