New York

Kirsi Mikkola

Bravin Post Lee

Most kids have imaginary friends. Artists and writers often don’t outgrow them, but as Kirsi Mikkola demonstrates, keeping in touch with made-up playmates is certainly not a bad thing. Four imaginary characters populate the little world that Mikkola elaborates in her drawings and sculptures: there’s Glo’, a devilishly innocent little girl in a red frock and white apron; Quickie, less a playground than a Playboy playmate with big breasts, big hair, and a big butt; No. 1, the epitome of the beer-bellied, lascivious dope, something along the lines of Homer Simpson; and Pansy, a giant flower with eyes, a nose, and a distinct personality. The characters all have distorted, cartoonlike appearances, and Mikkola’s every work is like a new episode in the ongoing cell animation of their various hostilities. Music Lovers, 1993, a sculpture made of brightly painted plaster, sketches out a typical set of relations between the characters: little Glo’ stands sweetly singing, her hands held quite properly at her sides, while Quickie holds a cello or bass between her legs and a naked No. 1 lies prostrate on the floor in front of her. Quickie’s bow aims directly at No. l’s poop chute, thus giving us cause to wonder just what sort of music lover he may be.

Though in Music Lovers, Glo’ may seem like the picture of innocence, in the sculpture Massive Changes, 1993, she shows her vicious side. Using a barrel about the size of a lawn roller, Glo’ squishes a whole series of No. ls, leaving them flat as pancakes on the ground. There’s a vengeance to Glo’s innocence, suggesting that innocence does not mean “ignorance” of sex or death or violence—Glo’ plays mean, like most kids—but only of the consequences of any given action. In Mikkola’s imaginary world, flattening No. 1 with a big lawn roller does not make his blood and guts squirt all over the place like a run-over opossum. While this may be how violence comes to infect play, it’s also liberating insofar as nothing is verboten: you can imagine killing the same No. 1 over and over, just as you can envision doing what the title of another sculpture, Flying without Landing, 1992, suggests.

What might happen if this flight of the imagination is cut short is suggested by yet another work. Off Where? To the Netherworld, 1993, shows a group of Pansies, or rather what’s left of them when their heads have been cut off and they poke pointlessly at the sky. Glo’ lies beside them, either dead or playing dead. A huge pair of scissors left on the ground suggests that someone big and bad has come along and committed this hate crime against the Pansies. Who could it be? The artist? A viewer? Has a grownup killed his inner child and fled the scene? We don’t know anything except that Glo’ can’t seem to go on when the flowers no longer have human heads.

Keith Seward