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Art Papers May/June 1999  
The Spectator February 1999  

 

Frills and Chills
"Dainty" paints a subversive portrait of femininity in the '90s

a review by Michele Natale for The Spectator
February 1999

view article on The Spectator web site

Printed on a lacy paper doily, the intriguing invitation to LUMP's "Dainty" announced "work daintily done by Andrea Lekberg and Sherri Wood." I have followed the recent work of both women with interest, but "Dainty" surpassed expectations and stands as perhaps the best local two-person show in my recent memory.

Each artist contributes her unique viewpoint to the show, yet their subjects and fine workmanship perfectly mirror one another. Making subversive use of traditionally non-threatening women's needle arts, they redefine the kind of "women's work" often trivialized and certainly not regarded as fine art. The themes here hearken to feminist work of the '70s, yet avoid the annoying pitfalls of feminist diatribe. Lekberg and Wood examine "girl stuff" of all description, in ways ironic, witty and profound.

Wood's Fast Food Aprons neatly juxtapose the concept of the ideal dinner-providing mom and the reality of many people's lives. Fashioning precisely detailed '50s-styled aprons from fast-food wrappers for the June Cleaver of the '90s, she drives home the disparity between the reality and the illusion.

She has also taken baby dolls, the kind with soft fabric bodies, and sent them around the country to be tattooed by leading women tattoo artists. Again, these operate on ironic contrast - tattoos, traditionally associated with tough guys, get transposed onto dolls and then embroidered on the dolls' bodies.

Wood also offers a set of frilly crocheted Tampon Cozies and a series of wedding lace samples embroidered over soft-porn pictures titled Sheer Fantasy - gutsy and very different work from this artist.

Lekberg scores with Girl, a plastic doll which wears a perfectly tailored outfit of clear plastic. The doll has a beret, dress with matching coat, shoes and panties which are completely transparent, accentuating details such as the elastic around the doll's panties and the buttons on its coat. Humorous as well as slightly chilling, the work manages to suggest the vulnerability of childhood and the reality of growing up female in a society that remains, to a large degree, sexist.

Ceremonial Dress, a little girl's dress made of pink velvet, is covered by a transparent plastic pinafore that holds nail polish and fake pink fingernails in its pockets, embodying the learned beauty rituals of little girls brought up in our society.

Vacuum Cake is a toy vacuum cleaner atop a cake-shaped pedestal. Both are covered with the elaborate frills of unearthly blue-green glitter icing. (Lekberg is a professional baker by day, and icing figures prominently in this show!)

My favorite piece in the show is The Dream. A doll sleeps in her bed, covered in a silver quilt. Above her head, a series of outfits is arranged in a grid, while a silver wig hangs on a bedpost. The doll "dreams" of her wedding trousseau, only this trousseau is made entirely from quilted teflon fabric, the kind used in oven mitts: The dream fantasy must face the dull grind of daily domestic chores. The piece succeeds wonderfully as a subtle, surreal experience because of Lekberg's extraordinary attention to detail.

In the back gallery, Laura Sharp Wilson's tiny paintings, in a style reminiscent of Indian miniatures, address her response to life in New York City. Painting on odd, egg-shaped box-like forms which she makes from watercolor board, Sharp records scenes of modern frustrations, like Dissatisfied and Searching, a world-weary portrayal of consumerism gone awry.

 

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