Originally published in Art in America, September 1998
Marisa Hernandez at scene/escena
Under the star-spangled glare of red, white and blue spotlights Marisa Hernandez presented flaggy, 10 glorious objects (all 1998) symbolizing a frilly and flaccid Americana. The works, also in shades of red, white and blue, consist of mass-produced plastic consumer goods proudly prettified with ribbons and feather boas, hanging on the wall or situated on the plywood floor in the tiny, almost underground, scene/escena.
Setting the tone for this subversive Martha Stewart run amok is streamer (30" x 30" x 30"), located in the center of the room and consisting of four levels of upright and overturned translucent blue plastic bowls. Dainty blue ribbons spew from punctures in the plastic and fluffy white feather boas surround the bowl rims. Hernandez creates a shapely fountain substituting banal 90's era throwaway household materials and cheap female accoutrements for marble, thereby commenting on and commemorating domestic rather than nationalistic victories.
Slyly alluding to the art of war are blood bath and fluff mines. Bathed in a pink glow, blood bath (6’ x 7 ½’ x 2’) consists of bowls with a blue and white swirled pattern cut in half, stitched together corset-style with red ribbon and reassembled on the wall. The ribbon then drips down onto a red plastic plate inside an open bowl representing a blood filled font and ends in a tangle on the floor. Her transgressive refashioning of these materials points to both the dangers and attractions inherent in religious rituals. In the particularly amusing fluff mines (1’ x 1 ½’ x 1 ½’) Hernandez stuffed blue boas inside white plastic wiffleballs arranged on the floor. A blue boa emerges from one of the balls and snakes across spikes poking out of a white plastic tray that leans against the wall. The tray, once perhaps an egg holder or ice cube maker, becomes a device for sexual entrapment, detonation or perhaps both.
The signature piece of the exhibition is white and blue (5’ x 7’ x 5’). Here Hernandez heralds the unfurling of a surrogate standard - one that celebrates a subversive feminist consciousness. She tops eleven wood poles with satin pennants, blue on one side white on the other, held aloft by wire, and firmly plants them at 45 degree angles in the gallery walls. These heraldic flags, mysterious medieval relics of unknown origin and purpose, cast sinister yet seductive shadows on the walls and floor leaving the viewer pondering what territory has been conquered, what is being proclaimed and to what ends.
In flaggy Hernandez facilitates a descent into an alternate reality, where nationalistic and religious fervor are turned upside down and fetishized into sexy shrines of domesticity.
- Amy Berk