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Jet Set Saturdays: Karen Ann Myers at Luis De Jesus

Karen Ann Myers, Striped Cot, 2010. Oil on canvas, 60×60 inches.

Thinking of You.” A benign statement, with a sentimentality with which we are all familiar. These moments of private female pleasure and sentimental yearning are captured in Karen Ann Myers’ remarkable show at Luis De Jesus. Myers’ work, like that of Mickaelene Thomas (recently on view at Vielmetter), invites us voyeuristically to a private place where the women are willing and the environments in which they are placed are as sensual as their bodies. Where Thomas celebrates the erotic largesse of black female bodies with larger than life areas of flat paint, Myers focuses on the “blonde bombshell” as a sexual center. Meyers’ figures are expressively molded and exist in contrast to the highly patterned flat backgrounds and decorative drapery. My crew bumped into quite a few Myers döppelgangers at the Dennis Hopper opening last Saturday at MOCA (Kelly Lynch and Patricia Arquette immediately come to mind). The cult of the blonde bombshell is one universally objectified and almost taboo in the world of fine art for its ditzy associations. However, standing next to a blonde goddess (or a Myers painting) in real life is a trip down memory lane — as the lightness of the subject’s hair truly recalls the blonde innocence of childhood mixed with the brazen knowledge of sexual power. I mean, who can’t look at Daryl Hannah when she walks into the room? Be it contempt or desire, the woman is fabulous.

Karen Ann Myers, Blue Bedroom, 2010. Oil on canvas.

Of course, the depiction of the female body as a site for sacred inspiration is as prehistoric as The Venus of Willendorf. The major difference here is that Meyers, a blonde, is presenting herself as both subject and object. Although not actually a depiction of Myer’s, she invites us to look at her sexualized images of models that turn her on. Her images such as Untitled (Striped Cot) and Untitled (Blue Room) show skinny blondies in various states of erotic repose, each one possessing an awareness of their power. These women appear to see themselves as accessories with a capital A, urging the viewer to look for the small details and naughty nuance. Their power to seduce us is somehow still appealing, even in our currently over-saturated, over-sexualized popular culture.

Mary Anna Pomonis with Striped Cot at the opening.

Also stunning are Myers’ screen prints, Come Here Boy and The Perfect Fit, which are redolent of decorative wallpaper patterns. The highly saturated colors bring to mind Indian or Islamic tessellation design. When viewed from a distance, the patterns satisfy as gorgeous color studies. But view them more closely, and one is rewarded with illustrations of couples entangled in tantric embrace (this Jetsetter observed several configurations, including the Lotus Position and doggy-style). Myers’ work fits into that uncomfortable place of propriety that befits a South Carolinian. Her work is covertly decorative — a bit traditional and proper. But she lithely inserts her own version of sexual deviance to invert the patriarchal power-play of the oldest art form (or profession), depending on the level of prurience within the viewer’s imagination[.]

This post was contributed by Mary Anna Pomonis

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Jet Set Saturdays: Karen Ann Myers at Luis De Jesus