The central persona in Cheryl Donegan's installation is a sexy, childlike version of the artist. She is seen on three video monitors painting self-portraits from her image on another video monitor. Three canvases of the results are tacked on the surrounding walls of the gallery. The blue paint on two of the canvases and the video segment of paint on her body being imprinted on the canvas allude to Yves Klein. In a famous performance, Klein wearing a tux, to the accompaniment of live string quartet, was filmed directing naked women to coat their bodies in paint and imprint themselves upon unstretched canvas. Donvgan's piece can be seen as appropriating Klein's performance and shifting the woman to the central site as creator and m.c. Donegan's camera pans over her silk-negligee clad body, as Cage-like fragments of a soundtrack (including selections from the Rolling Stones' "Stripped") play in the background, There are moments in the hour-long video where filmed fragments of her body set up abstract images on the screen or references are made to the foregrounded crooked leg image of "the Graduate," or a can of paint brushes will call up Jasper Johns' Savarin can.
Like Johns, she's interested in essences: of creativity, of modernism, of style. After all, Klein used beautiful women in his performances. While Donegan's role here is impresario, documentarian, painter, narcissist and voyeur wrapped up together, her purpose is to attempt to return to the pre-age-of-reason, kindergarten artistic genius that we all were. In a written statement accompanying the piece, Donegan seems to eschew the paintings as works of art, though they have successfully returned to that spiritual childhood state. The piece suggests that not withstanding the intrusions of an art school, art historical education, an artist's central impulses form a continuous line from childhood and one should not stray too far from the path. Shining through the shadowy videos, seductive persona, and uncertain markmaking, is the refreshingly unguarded optirnism of this artist's work.
cheryl donegan rocks! so says my chi-town homies.