Alice Shaddle

Artemesia Gallery

Was a time when ladies thought it derogatory to mention their own wispy qualities. But one type of current women’s art seems to acknowledge the female myth, in effect, saying, “Yes, femininity exists and my art proves it.” And then there is the other kind of work that bolluxes the myth, appropriating phallic imagery or elevating Plain Janes where Marilyns might have stood. Expressing this dichotomy, Alice Shaddle is a paradigm standing opposite the imagery of Judith Bernstein. Shaddle acknowledges the sense of flowers, the fluent fantasies, the shifting forms which Bernstein summarily “plows” with megalomaniac, furious screw drawings. Shaddle’s sculpture is made of paper, big pieces cut and twisted into structural shapes, with hundreds of “petal” fragments added to break the unison. A resin overlay preserves but does not totally harden or weigh down the work. The forms are open in the process of unfolding, or ready to spin and blow away. Visually, they summon women’s dresses, shells, reaching candle flames, gushing water fountains, and dream figures. All of the “feminine” words are applicable—light, gracious, modest, gentle, blushing—but the critical message is: none of those words means “insignificant.”

This “flower” aspect of women’s imagery—also developed in Joy Poe’s fans; Hannah Wilke’s latex forms; Sandra Strauss’s diary scrolls; Phyllis MacDonald’s softly folding canvas; Laurie Anderson’s fluid, fragmentary performances of life memories—at first, all seem to say that “delicacy is power,” but, more resoundingly, they say “I am power.” Personal involvement is important here: each woman’s art refers to herself, her clothes, her gardens, her sexuality, her problems, her dreams, and just tangentially to Art. Shaddle’s work grows easily, utilizing more and more an artist’s freedom to represent her own personal life.

In her case, there is a latent strength in the iconography, even if the means are pink paper and elusive shapes; it serves itself, it stands unified, it makes a statement.

C. L. Morrison