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Mary Beth Edelson
at McKinney Avenue Contemporary, Dallas, Texas
Recommendation by Charissa Terranova

Mary Beth Edelson, 'Marilyn Monroe Never Got To Be: Two Things at Once,' 1997

Continuing through December 11, 2010

Pixie-like and ageless, Mary Beth Edelson is a woman with wisdom of the postmodern ages. Her work is borne out of the revolutionary 'politics of the body' of the 1960s that became the codified and self-righteous gender politics of Feminism in the 1970s.
"Collage Wall: History 1971-2010" offers a retrospective gaze onto the heady times of feminist activism. The collages are made up of long tendrils of carefully cut fabric on which are glued cutouts of tiny female heads interspersed with mystical symbols of female power, such as Medusa, Venus Kali, and the Irish Sheela-na-Gig. Reinforced by "Here's to the Boys in the Navy," two diaphanous sheets of fabric hanging from the ceiling on which are drawn two images of Marlene Dietrich in military uniform, there is a strong sense of feminine craft and Hollywood nostalgia in this small exhibition. Edelson heads off potential weakness and cliché by way of language in the form of hand-drawn questions about the construction of gender in mixed-media drawings of Hollywood starlets, such as Mae West, Judy Garland, and, from a later era, Lynda Carter.

Powerfully contradictory messages abound here - craft is elusive, subtle, and, at the same time, crafty, the feminine whisper screams out for staunch autonomy. The work comes across as strikingly dainty and even pretty in some circumstances. Helen Reddy's roaring woman arrives wrapped in the taupe, perfumed gauze of yesterday's Hollywood femme fatale.

McKinney Avenue Contemporary

McKinney Avenue Contemporary | The MAC

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