Mindy Cherri “Sexpectations”

13Mar08

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The Office, Huntington Beach, CA
Feb 24- March 23, 2007

My mother has a decorative plate collection that hangs in the dining room. State plates proclaiming “Montana, the Big Sky State!” mingle with delicate blue Dutch Delft dishes. At first blush, the china plates in Mindy Cherri’s “Sexpectations” at The Office in Huntington Beach mirror my mother’s collection. White plates with blue lettering are cozily hung salon-style on blue ribbons, domestic Americana transported to the gallery. However, it quickly becomes clear that the pretty plates are not just good clean kitsch. They’re actually quite dirty. And I mean dirty the way your mother would, the kind of dirty that, in my early days, would make my mother threaten to wash my mouth out with soap.
Mindy Cherri’s “Sexpectations” is comprised of an assortment of delicate white china plates, each emblazoned with its own dirty word. Cherri painstakingly creates the sparkly Old English calligraphy on the plates by placing scores of crystals with a dental tool, going back in later to excise any remaining glue and to polish her dirty words to an azure brilliance. “Beaver” “Pussy” “Dickalicious” “Slut” are among the dirty words that erupt on the plates.
Thinking about the exhibit brings to mind another of my mother’s exhortations to “clean your plate”, and makes me wonder, what does it mean to have an embellished hanging plate scream “Beaver” at you? I think that Cherri’s plates represent a return of the repressed, an attempt to show how the things we want to hide (or hide from) come back, not so much to haunt us as to tease us, to poke fun at our prudishness. Rather than exemplars of mid-American domesticity, these plates are an uncomfortable reminder of the funny, messy, dirty body, that-which-domesticity-tries-to-contain. Cherri’s plates serve up delicious contradictions, putting that-which-should-be-hidden on display.
Cherri buys china pieces ready-made from a company that sells mostly to people who hand-paint china. The upper-class-aspirational, society past-time of hand painting china invokes visions of ladies of leisure, Junior League members who train future generations of young ladies in suitable manners, protocols, and behaviors. That Cherri’s plates are not at all suitable is part of the joke.
Like someone gone crazy with a Bedazzler“‰, Cherri puts her own salacious spin on the kitsch memento. An in-your-face re-appropriation of craft, a re-imagining of the readymade, Cherri’s sculptures meld the modernist simplicity of Duchamp’s urinal with the kind of elaboration and embellishment that still signify “beauty” in pop culture America. In so doing, Cherri takes the piss out of the public, the masculine, and minimalist modernity, instead serving up the domestic, the kitsch, the feminine, and embellishment. “Sexpectations” is deliberately quaint, decidedly funny, and quietly disruptive.

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