Male blow-up dolls, cowhide curtains, furry masks and lipstick-shaped cushions beckon from inside the “Lady Cave,” Laura Marsh’s blanket fort installation at Bailey Contemporary Arts in Pompano Beach. Marsh’s colorful tent, perched under a skylight on the gallery’s second floor, is coated in swirls of glitter and hot pink and stuffed with carnivalesque props, including a Guy Fawkes mask, beach balls, feathered headdresses, an inflatable brown monkey, wigs topped with pink tiaras and a “selfie station,” a smartphone suspended by wires allowing “Lady Cave” visitors to snap self-portraits while wearing all these costumes.
Playing dress-up is part of the appeal of the “Lady Cave,” a feminist twist on so-called man caves, says Marsh, who designed the boxy-looking fort for visitors to tinker with ideas of identity, sexuality and community in a “comfortable space.”
For Marsh, a Miami artist who's also the curator of exhibitions at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, the project reminds her of pillow forts she built as a kid. The “Lady Cave” may have a playful veneer, but it’s made for adults, she says.
“You get an adrenaline rush when you enter, this excitement for being alive, especially when you go inside with a group,” Marsh says. “You can really change yourself, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. You can be sensual and take sexy selfies. You can try on a costume. Through humor, people arrive at some pretty profound things about the world.”
Marsh’s “Lady Cave” is the glittery centerpiece of the gallery’s group show “Gritty in Pink,” a collection of 50 works by 30 artists (mostly women) that confront and reject how the color pink has come to represent femininity, cuteness, softness and motherhood across the world. The exhibit, curated by artists Megan Castellon and Lisa Rockford, came together through a $2,000 Broward Cultural Division grant.
The color pink has for centuries been linked to stereotypical girliness, from Barbie dolls to gooey Mother’s Day cards to pink-covered bedrooms, Rockford says, but artworks here are fighting to make the color more subversive.
“The idea is to take the color away from its association with delicate beauty and feminine cuteness,” Rockford says. “They want to give pink more gritty textures, especially with all the embroidered pieces, which are meant to take back the craft from what it used to be: a domestic practice for women.”
Leora Klaymer Stewart uses pink-dyed yarn to explore a recent ordeal with breast cancer in her series “Life Cycles,” which features embroidered sculptures of eyes and breasts covered in multicolored vines. Anna Kell, meanwhile, explores the color pink’s association with domestic spaces in “Gainesville Pinks,” a tapestry of used mattress covers covered in pink floral patterns.
Pink becomes a source of humor in Samantha Lyn Aasen’s photographs. The artist superimposes the face of Barbie over her own in the self-portrait “Barbie Face 2,” and tries (but fails) to shove her feet into a tiny, Cinderella-style slipper in the photo “Feet.” In Donna Lee Steffen’s “Pretty in Pink,” North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is depicted as a girl-power rock star, wearing a glittery pink jacket, a peace-sign necklace and a Michael Jackson-style white glove.
But pink is also a source of discomfort in Cindy Hinant’s video “Girls Gone Wild: Tight Blonde Flashes Her Tight Body.” In the video, an animated grid of pink lines plays over a soundtrack of audio clips from a “Girls Gone Wild” pornographic film, in which a cameraman talks a reluctant “blonde” into taking off her clothes.
“When you replace the video with pink lines, all you hear is this awkward, cold exchange with a cameraman,” Rockford says. “In this case, the color pink takes something grotesque and turns it into a source of strength.”
“Gritty in Pink” is on view now at Bailey Contemporary Arts, 41 NE First St., in Pompano Beach. There will be a $5 curator-led tour 2-3:30 p.m. Friday, June 16, and a free lecture 1-3 p.m. June 24. The exhibit will close July 14. Admission is free. Call 954-284-0141 or go to BaileyArts.org.
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