Narcissister Activated Sculptures
Conceived of in 2007, the Narcissister project combines the artist’s professional dance training, her work as a commercial artist, and her longstanding visual art study and practice. She is identified by her mask, merkin, and mixed-race body. The masks she dons are repurposed wig display forms designed in 1965 by female entrepreneur Verna Doran. Narcissister’s name and mask merge contradictions such as the shadow of narcissism, fetishized female beauty, the notion of sisterhood, and concerns beyond self. Her disguise distances her from the viewer and the consequent anonymity empowers bold gestures as a performer that are otherwise impossible.
Sexuality, gender, identity, and representation are ever-present in her works. In the collage and sculpture works installed here, she makes a pointed inquiry into the heady masculinity present in the canon of art history (in particular the early-to-mid Twentieth Century). The collages presented are from several bodies of work. The 2018 series Studies for Participatory Sculptures feature women or their body parts collaged onto, and sometimes into, images of works of art from prominent periods of art history including Modernism, Minimalism, and Abstract Expressionism.
The two bales of crushed aluminum cans from San Antonio’s Monterrey Metal make reference to the Minimalist cube featured in many of the collaged studies. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, the bales will be activated by extra Narcissisters, as will The Face (Performing male facial features). Composed entirely of scrap metal also from Monterrey Metal, the face references monumental sculpture works by artists like Richard Serra and John Chamberlain, but Narcissister responds by making a work entirely activated by a female performer, rendering it static without the presence of a Narcissister. She wears a nose backpack and furry pants as the mustache and operates a pully system to animate the face. The collage from the Studies for Participatory Sculpturesseries, which inspired the sculpture, is on view nearby.
Her other collage series created at Artpace during her residency: Everyday Cubism, Dog Show, and Portrait Session, combine traditionally salacious imagery intended to titillate with fairly ordinary people, settings, or things. In each of her new series, she presents hybrid figures made of numerous female body parts in unexpected positions and in sometimes absurd, exaggerated configurations. One nude figure standing in an idyllic garden smiles cheerfully at the viewer while across the gallery, male dog handlers at competitions proudly show their “purebred” canine-woman hybrids hoping for, or even better, boasting a victory.
Whether humorous, provocative, grotesque, or subtle, Narcissister’s exhibition inquires into and upsets the normal understandings of power dynamics not just within the confines of identity and representation, but also fetishism and sexuality.