This Saturday, Public Space One of Iowa City opened its July Art Gallery that honors everything cute – pastels, puppies, and anything miniature – but organizers say there’s a dark side to it. cute art.
This Saturday, art lovers from Iowa City gathered at Public Space One to celebrate the opening of its month-long art exhibit, “Too Cute.”
And the Saturday crowd was cute. In the driveway of the old house, a pink-haired woman served cotton candy, while groups of young friends mingled on the porch of the house. Children were ridden in wagons by their parents and a whimsical techno filled the hot air.
The interior space was everything the gallery title promised: so cute. From ceramic toilets dotted with charms and happy ranchers to white cotton cloud decorated with rose petals and fake candy, Public Space One was a cheerful look at what 13 local and non-local artists did last year.
Upon entering, one of the first centerpieces is that of Sam Hensley, “Mr. Beautiful ”, a strange but alluring little creature made of colorful salvaged fabrics and electronics. He was walking around and chatting in a robotic voice with the visitors.
Alongside Monsieur Beau, the first room of the gallery housed rooms for the most part, objectively cute. The second piece, however, contained slightly more ominous undertones. Vulvar drawings of Fuko Ito adorned one wall while the sad-looking dogs of Tommy Santee Klaws covered the other. Creatures like Mr. Beautiful were placed on the floor, including “Gut Baby,” a goofy-looking pink mesh creature also created by Hensley.
“Gut baby is just proud to be Gut Baby,” said gallery organizer Vero Rose. “Beautiful and disturbing at the same time. And I love that, and I love the way Gut baby moves in the world.
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Despite the kindness, gallery organizers Drake Wilbur and Rose said there is more to every room than it looks. Although they chose to celebrate cuteness in July, art generally viewed by viewers as “cute” often has a darker connotation.
“I was really interested in the kind of cute and the cute skin tone with its diminutiveness, its smallness, its appeal,” Rose said. “What happens when cute is this slightly sinister, or depressing, or deals with really serious issues in the world?” Can cute also be great art?
Vero Rose is a Chicago-based UI alumnus, artist, educator, and curator. Rose spoke of her life experiences as both a hyper-female and female artist; she is “too cute” to be gay and “too cute” for her art to be taken seriously. While her work aims to tackle pressing issues like climate change and historical and economic inequalities, it’s often seen as cute – an issue she says is common to queer creators and women alike.
Rose and her co-organizer Drake Wilbur sought to explore the ways in which the cute has been used as a weapon to silence and reject the intellectual work of artists who often did not intend their work to be cute. .
“Especially in the work that I produce in other parts of my practice, around climate change, around big societal issues – I do a lot of small forms just because of the studio space I have had for the last few years. years., and that littleness is sometimes seen as cute, “Rose said.” And I’m like, but no, this is how we are killing the planet and destroying the future of humanity. “
While much of the gallery art may be seen as cute at first glance, many pieces deal with heavier themes. While Tommy Santiposi’s paintings of dogs in the gallery may seem cute and light-hearted to a viewer, his work grapples with his childhood and family trauma. Hannah Song’s brilliantly detailed ceramic cake, while adorable, has to do with messy eating and solving it.
“Cuteness is also a weapon, as sometimes ‘cute’ may interest you, as if there is an aesthetic hook that can lead you to deeper issues,” Rose said. “Tommy Santee Klaws [art] is about family ties presented in a non-threatening way because they can be read as cute, right? So how can the cute be uplifting? How can we use cute as a way to deepen discussions? “
Hoping to get a more serious response to cute art, Wilbur and Rose placed the pieces in a more traditional gallery. Wilbur said it was his way of stating that aesthetically cute art is just as important as what is commonly thought of as “fine art.”
Despite the dark twist and deeper meanings, the air was happy that day. The children were taken to the cars they arrived in and a bottle of champagne was popped in the driveway. Rose left with one last message:
“Stay cute. Stay weird,” she said.