Los Angeles

Anna-Maria Sircello

Food House

Displayed at one of Los Angeles’ newest and funkiest gallery spaces, Anna-Maria Sircello’s small, weirdly anthropomorphic objects are irresistibly erotic. Sircello’s corporealized forms (sometimes human, sometimes animal or insectlike) elicit the interpretive responses appropriate to a chaotic ’90s cultural imaginary. Constructed of hair, panty hose, hair nets, and embroidery hoops, these phallic and/or vaginal “bodies” use the tools of feminine beauty and feminized handicrafts to tell a story that ultimately rubs the sexual against the supposedly deeroticized femininity of the domestic. The tension created by this friction is both explosive and amusing.

Several pieces are formally spare, manipulating flesh-colored hose to construct genital and anal orifices—the circular leg-hole of a stocking pulled open across an embroidery frame lasciviously beckons the visitor to plunge a phallic instrument inside; another, a decorously arranged rosette of orthopedic hosiery, sports the puckered edges and central slit of a clitoris and vaginal hole. Laconic and elegant in their simplicity, these two objects are soft-spoken counterparts to the obsessive verbosity of most of the other pieces. Some are uptight, with tense, wadded skeins of hair contained by hair nets and embroidery hoops (one of these, with dark-brown hair, is placed on the floor and looks like a steaming pile of dog turds); others are more loosely constructed. Blond hair spews in larval loops from see-through purple panties hung on the wall; brown hair swirls down in buttocklike bunches from a brown hair net; a sinuous brown braid slithers floorward from a splash of blue tulle arranged like a hairpiece on the wall. In my personal favorite, which dangled at about eye-level in the middle of the room, a brown-yarn braid spills from a pod of two demure white lace bra cups that are sewn together. The lace forms a large eye in the middle of each cup and the object, complete with limp antenna/braid protruding from the back of its head, looks at the viewer as if it were a giant fly.

Several roughly drawn, harrowing self-portraits in charcoal, oil stick, and graphite seal Sircello’s double-edged (cartoonish but pain-filled) approach to the profound complexities of femininity in our culture. In Me Crying My Head Off, 1992, for example, Sircello presents herself standing in a veritable sea of tears, genitals exposed under the revealing arches of a garter belt, her head exploding in a wash of red with her mouth the only visible feature, agape in a scream of pain.

In the biomorphic objects, which are humorous but also menacing in their animallike mutability, Sircello personifies theatrical attributes of female beauty, forcing them to stand in for the female body as metaphorical objects of desire. In so doing, both the attributes and the idea of the woman on display are exposed as highly motivated. Sircello’s bizarre and playful objects simultaneously compel and repel the visitor, implicating her or him in the intensely invested exchange of desire that characterizes the act of viewing art at its most unpredictable and affecting. Like Me Crying My Head Off, they all are at once funny and frightening, speaking volumes about the suppressed pleasures and pains of female subjectivity in contemporary culture.

Amelia Jones