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Art

Girls gone … not so wild

Despite some quality, exhibit fails to hold theme of female celebration

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Mary Lou Evans watercolor “Older Sister” on display as part of the It’s a Girl Thing exhibit at Reed Whipple Cultural Center.
Susanne Forestieri

When I heard the title It’s a Girl Thing, I fantasized the Guerrilla Girls, those gorilla-masked anarchic gadflies of the art world, would put in an appearance. I looked forward to a dishy, outrageous show—a correlate to TV’s Gossip Girl and Girls Behaving Badly. What I found at Reed Whipple Cultural Center was a tame exhibition. It was a letdown, but a few works quietly made an impression.

Mary Lou Evans and Anne Hoff tackle relationships. Evans’ watercolor “Older Sister” is a study in body language and facial expression. One nubile girl, wearing an undershirt and panties, appraises herself in a bathroom mirror, while another looks on skeptically. Evans’ graphite drawing “Foot Massage” (a play on Titian’s “Venus and the Lute Player”) shows an imperious beauty not being serenaded but having her feet attended to; the work may finally answer Freud’s eternal question, “What do women really want?” Hoff’s graphite diptych “Seven Degrees of Separation” depicts a small figure in each panel hiking through the mountains. The welter of landscape details envelops the small figures, making them almost disappear to the viewer and each other.

Calendar

It’s a Girl Thing
Two and a half stars
Through October 10; Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Reed Whipple Cultural Center, 229-6211.

Sex is slyly hinted at in Kyla Hansen’s “Learn to Ball a Jack,” by cheerily colored porcelain teacups tumbling willy-nilly out of a upended drawer, each cup lettered with a day of the week, like little girls’ panties. Where you expect handles, Hansen has created concave hemispheres that suggest diaphragms—redolent of Meret Oppenheim’s surrealist masterpiece of a fur-covered cup, saucer and spoon, which also transformed objects associated with feminine decorum into sexually punning tableware.

Domestic gadgetry is another set of feminine objects freighted with meaning, either as icons of American prosperity and success or as symbols of women’s containment in the domestic sphere. Marty Walsh’s bright and affectionate painting of a vintage Sunbeam electric can opener encapsulates the 1950s’ promise of domestic bliss. But the image is tinged with irony, since that was the era when housewives began to express displeasure with their roles as wives and mothers.

Frustratingly for a reviewer, many of the best works—including Mary Warner’s exquisite flower paintings and Merrilee Hortt’s delicate portrait drawings—are only tangentially related to the theme. Because the show was hastily thrown together when another was canceled, the subtle interplay between works carefully selected for a themed show is missing.

It’s a Girl Thing aabcc

Through October 10; Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Reed Whipple Cultural Center, 229-6211.

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