Ryan Findley
Terrible Beauties

Rebecca Schoenecker at Redline

By - Apr 16th, 2010 04:00 am
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The Englishman by Rebecca Schoenecker

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So is danger. Neither one is able to fully defined, nor able to be fully pigeon-holed. We cannot say with absolute certainty what is beautiful or terrible, because the two concepts are so intertwined in the way that we think about them they are impossible to separate.

In Terrible Beauties, Rebecca Schoenecker’s concept of gender construction is more nuanced than a simple dichotomy. Her women are terrible, yes, and also beautiful, but these two things are not diametrically opposed. They are not mutually exclusive. The terrible can be beautiful and the beautiful can be terrible. Schoenecker understands that and brings it to the forefront.

Working in mediums as diverse as animation, embroidery and paint, Schoenecker creates a world of women that are dangerous but impotent. She often crosses images of women with those of insects — things that we instinctively recoil from as dirty or somehow dangerous, but at the same time creatures that are inherently fragile. We can crush them with no effort whatsoever. In Queenpede and Widow, the woman and the insect are one being. Both are beautiful examples of Schoenecker’s embroidery skill, something that she learned as a child from her grandmother and came back to after years during which she thought she’d “outgrown” the medium.

In the more intriguing Penelopede, a painted piece, the female figure rides on a worm-like creature through a network of tunnels. She rides with a

Penelopede by Rebecca Schoenecker

slightly feral expression, and pieces of other worms are scattered through the empty space, dripping blood into pools. The woman herself seems to have lost the ends of her hair, a wound that drips just as if hair were a living extension of herself rather than a dead one.

Also appearing at the RedLine show is one of Schoenecker’s first animation pieces, titled The Sphinx. Schoenecker has been “obsessed” with Egyptian iconography for several years, and it was through her work on The Sphinx that she realized the pull of the pyramid of as a symbol of patriarchal power. This makes intuitive sense; pyramids (like obelisks) are rudimentary phallic objects. In The Sphinx, Schoenecker pits the patriarchal Great Pyramid against the feminine sphinx, who is both captive and protector, both in thrall of the pyramid and longing to escape it’s watchful eye.

In contrast to the Egyptian iconography that pervades Terrible Beauties, there is also a strong current of classic English iconography. Schoenecker uses everything from images of fox hunts (complete with men in red coats) to tall ships in her quest to reinvent the gender myths of the past, re-imagining those relationships and symbols that are so ingrained in our cultural consciousness we don’t even think about them anymore.

Schoenecker is also a musician, and wrote and performed the music for her animation. She performs live under the name “Laughing Eye, Weeping Eye,” which is also the title of one of the works in this show. She performs and exhibits actively in both Milwaukee and Chicago, where she earned her BFA in printmaking at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and her MFA at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.

Terrible Beauties is on view at RedLine MKE, 1422 N. 4th St., through June 19. There will be an opening reception, including a short talk by Rebecca Schoenecker, on Friday, April 16, 2010.

Categories: Art

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