Today, Susanna Crum ’08 and Zaza Acevedo’s ’08 art show Mighty Aphrodite will be celebrating the end of its week-long run in the Main Gallery in Tjaden Hall, the maroon brick building across the street from the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. What stands in the gallery are thirteen artworks, but what stands behind all of them is an uncanny intimacy with duplicity and a moment in art.
Mighty Aphrodite takes its name from the Greek goddess who grew in the foam of the sea from Uranus’s testicles and who was honored at the annual Aphrodisiac with ritual prostitution. But, the show changes our conception of Aphrodite entirely. Crum said the show is about “a public and private expression of women’s identities.”
Public and private are emblems of the duplicity throughout the entire exhibition. Crum’s feature work — four pairs of semi-transparent JoAnn Fabrics linens portraying life-size women drawn in walnut ink, black ink and chalk — demands us to “see the layers of experience in a physical, literal way.” With small gaps between four columns that comprise the scene, a group of women approaches another woman lying on a rock; she may be hibernating like Sleeping Beauty, but she also looks quite dead. Crum explained that the layers of fabric, which seem to portray the same scene, differentiate between the experience and the memory of an experience, as well as between an appearance and its emotion.
Acevedo’s share of the show takes the same intuition but explodes it into Technicolor in works that walk the razor’s edge between reality and imagination. While most of the paintings realistically mimic the women in covers of magazines like Marie Claire or W and old Hollywood epics, they filter these mass media images through an individual’s mind: the text disappears from the covers, revealing a delirious Sarah Jessica Parker and a frustrated Kirsten Dunst and Elizabeth Taylor with a full head of precious jewels but a face of boredom. Each woman is half of a diptych, or a side-by-side presentation of two paintings as one work. The other halves are a shark, Queen of Hearts playing cards and a Manhattan cityscape, respectively. Like Crum’s, Acevedo’s pairings suggest that there is a link, and sometimes a gap, between the feeling an object can evoke and the feeling in a woman’s facial expression.
Probably the best example of Mighty Aphrodite’s intimate duplicity is that the show is a collaboration basically founded on friendship between Acevedo and Crum. While Acevedo was taking a class about women and the Renaissance, Crum became interested in the etching “Susanna and the Elders,” which depicts the Biblical woman about to be raped by two lusty old men. Crum told Acevedo about an idea to modernize the vulnerable Susanna to make her strong. The idea sparked the goal of a collaborative exhibition.
Crum and Acevedo are only undergraduates, but by prioritizing their work entirely for personal satisfaction and not credit or money, Mighty Aphrodite fulfills the grandeur of its title with a concrete sense of inspiration.
“We had frenzied moments, with the huge canvasses and hanging it ourselves … but outside of class, with so much to do, it’s important to see an art show,” concluded Acevedo. “And it’s good to try creating it.”