By Kyle Munzenrieder
Female objectification and spunky ooze have a provocative history together; from all-American past times like mud wrestling and Panama City body paint tents to an Internet portal of cum fiestas, menstrual fetishism, German scat and Japanese rape porn. Artist Francine Spiegel's latest solo exhibit How Could You? on display at Miami’s Bas Fisher Invitational asks how much unmentionable day-glo lard can you throw on a pair of female breasts and still find it remotely sexual. It’s a test in the balance between the modern adage of nothing being shocking and undeniable human queasiness. And if you find yourself on the vicarious receiving end of the gunk, when does the drenching cease being sensuous of satisfying?
Spiegel has made a mess before with her “goopy wall art,” previously using post-party debris assembled and hung amid images of curvaceous pin-up worthies. Her latest offering is a collection of four paintings and it doesn't stray far from her niche specialty. There is progress, however, because How Could You? finds her latest neon-wasteland queens posing in toxic settings where the signature bursting colostomy bags of guts and bodily fluids are rendered in a much more traditional medium of acrylic painting.
Spiegel is a Miami native now based in New York, and it is tempting to view the show in the context of an artist presenting a small selection of work back in the calmer waters of home to test out transition. Her previous solo show Congratulations! at Silo in New York featured party gunk-and-tits assemblages, and it now seems she's exploiring the quadrilateral canvas solely with a brush and not a hot glue gun and literal remnants of young debauchery. It’s easy to imagine this work being taken more seriously as a result, whether that’s a goal or not. This isn’t to say she's lost her punk love of collage. She plotted this collection of acrylic works using computer-enabled mash-ups, cropping jpegs of horror movie stills and titillating vintage comics into surreal backgrounds where the female figure is the most discernible object.
When Spiegel recasts the paint as a meaty milkshake of blood, intestines, human waste (none is wasted, apparently), and creamed corn, it’s difficult to gauge her talent as a figurative painter. What is underneath all this shit, in other words? She’s found a creative way to distract, and possibly camouflage, her capacity as a painter, and that’s true to her style. And true to the theme of these works as well, where you might be studying a monster coyly and falsely portraying a beauty or vice versa.
In “Smog” a puke femme hoists a body over her head—explosive techno-pus spewing from between the lifeless legs—preparing to throw it at the voluptuous, manly girl crying in front of her. There's no crying in fluorescent septic tank baseball, puta. "Dead head" shows a hirsute woman with colorful cream similar to puffy sparkle-paint from a dollar store dripping from her face, as she squeezes her ample bust. Another painting, "Bucket" (not pictured here) leaves the women out of the composition entirely, leaving only the impression that their bodies, or at least the sexiest parts, have made in the sludge. It's high-sensory gross, but the kinetic, candied colors entice your eyes to further admire the curves. Once you notice what they're speckled with, it's too late, you like them.
In a world where it’s continually sited that public sensuality and exhibitionism are sliding down a lubed slope (hey, thanks Bang Bus), Spiegel places the universal symbol of sexy—big boobs—amid everything base and runny she can create with a paint brush. Like the canonized princess of all things superficially sexy, bizarre and cringe-inducing, Anna Nicole Smith, How Could You? rhetorically asks with mutated, warped knowingness, "Do you think I'm sexy? Do you like my body?" Not only do you find yourself battling against a juvenile “maybe,” you’re also imagining sliding into the gook like it represents the home plate to no reservations. What fun.
Francine Spiegel’s How Could You? is on display at the Bas Fisher Invitational, 180 NE 39 th Street, Suite 210, in Miami through May 12.
This art discourse of How Could You? is written by Kyle Munzenrieder for ignore Magazine, copyright 2007. Marc Summers has nothing to do with this exhibit. He was the host of the TV program Double Dare from 1988-1992.