City Gallery

Past exhibition

Vanity Case

14 August–12 September 2004

ARTISTS Trevor Byron, Louise Clifton, Arlo Edwards, Martin F. Emond, Amelia Handscomb, Mephisto Jones, Steph Lusted, Sarah Jane Parton, Kate Wyatt CURATOR Sarah Farrar

In this loosely defined theme show, Wellington artists and designers explore ‘beauty, identity, fear, death, desire, love, and loss’ while making occasional nods to the vanitas still-life tradition.

Kate Wyatt offers a creepy wax sculpture of a largely naked young girl, whose hands mask her sex. A ceramic land mine replaces her head. Wyatt says it’s about loss of innocence and the impossibility of turning back the clock. Her other work, Pink Vanity (2000), is a modified bedroom vanity unit inlaid with aged, cracked makeup. Moths are trapped under its Perspex cover.

In her video Maybe She Is, Sarah Jane Parton appears in a constructed bedroom set. At first, she appears oblivious of being filmed; later, very aware. Contrived and nostalgic, it explores fantasies of femininity and beauty through teenager eyes.

Fashion is a reference point. In Hoodies (2002), Arlo Edwards defaces and ornaments a Glassons fashion ad, coopting the female model as a slave to his artistic vision and fantasy. The models in photographer Louise Clifton’s Pretty Deep (2004) seem to be laughing at us. They stare at us with fake eyes painted onto their closed eyelids.

There are ladies’ legs. Clifton’s photo Delicates (2004) shows a mannequin leg in a stocking, as if a product display. In her lightbox photo, Revue des Fleurs (2004), Amelia Handscomb replaces the stamens of lilies with disembodied Barbie-doll legs in red high heels, in a fetishistic cancan parody.

There’s jewellery. Tufts of hair protrude from Trevor Byron’s brooches, rings, and cuff links, playing on the way we are both repelled by hair and covet it as desirable—a memory token. The brooches in Steph Lusted’s Crème de la Crème Collection (2004) include a crossbones design and little reliquaries containing real preserved butterflies, moths, bees, and cicadas.

Plus there’s street style: Martin F. Emond, with his gender-blurring T-shirts design for Auckland clothes store Illicit, and street artist Mephisto Jones.