Sunday, July 8, 2007

Viva La Cabaret!

Friday night was the "Viva La Frida" show opening at whitespace to commemorate the 100th birthday of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. I have a piece in the show but didn't really know what to expect going in, except that there would be cabaret dancers.

First I ran into Angel out on the street, who gave me my first glimpse of the infamous Iphone. After a quick demonstration, I realized how badly I need one and how I most definitely can't afford it.

Then I headed into the show following the beat of Latin music and hearing promises of margaritas. I was a bit taken aback by how absolutely packed it was. The entire courtyard was buzzing with people and the margarita line went all the way to the street.

I managed to get there just in time for all of the entertainment, starting with a performance piece by Peggy Dobbins, that involved her dressed in a nun outfit and shouting out various things to the crowd that they would in turn call back in response.

This was then followed up by the "Dames Aflame" cabaret dancers. They arrived in Frida-esque clothing, with flowers in their hair, and quickly striped down to next to nothing. I kept waiting for the nun to reappear for some interesting new dialogue but to no avail. It was a great show anyway and the music was so contagious I could tell I wasn't the only one trying to resist joining in.

Aside from the choreographed show of skin, the other highlight for me was the film by photographer Jody Fausett in collaboration with Shana Robbins. I was a bit mesmerized by it and watched it at least three times before able to pull myself away. It was in Fausett's style of high contrast and saturated colors with surreal imagery. Out of everything in the show I felt this film took a different approach to celebrating Frida Kahlo legacy and in many ways was the most successful. There was an insinuation of hidden narrative and imagery used to create something out of a dream or the subconscious. The piece was less a direct illustration of Kahlo and more a work celebrating her influence. There was of course the one not-so-subtle inclusion of the uni-brow that Robbins was sporting in the film but that sexy little detail was just the flare a piece about Frida requires.

Photographer Benita Carr had a poignant piece about the body. Taking Kahlo's trademark attribute of abundant facial hair, Carr demonstrated the abuses the body undergoes to meet our culture's ideals of beauty, by documenting the waxing off of a mustache. But by including an image of Kahlo's uni-brow in the piece, she questions this assumed definition of beauty. After all, as Selma Hayek showed us all, no one was sexier, or more of a woman, than Kahlo and all her bountiful hair.

I found my sculpture "Arch" to be mounted on a pink wall, and to my surprised it really made the piece pop. Who knew? Pink walls? This makes me rethink everything...

I was also very taken by the hallway covered in brightly painted cardboard cut-outs of plants by Justine Rubin. It was the floral "feel good" space I want to transfer over to my apartment once the show is over.

Here's Matt interacting with the sculpture "Broken Column" by Roberta Griffin

Nothing says happy birthday like sparklers. From this point forward, John Otte DJed music that had people dancing in the courtyard well into the night.

During the party some other artists and myself speculated over what element of the opening drew this insane crowd. Was it the half naked dancing women? Free liquor? A group show of engaging art? Or maybe it's all because of Frida? Apparently, after 100 yrs, Frida Kahlo is making as big a splash as ever - and she still throws a damn good party.

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