Girl with Purse
June 26 – August 21, 2022
Opening reception: Sunday, June 26, 3–6pm
Following the opening, gallery hours are available by appointment only.
Please contact email@example.com to make arrangements
to visit RUSCHWOMAN during the run of the exhibition.
Bonnie Lucas: Girl with Purse. Installation view, RUSCHWOMAN, June 2022
Behind skeletal trees of tiny leaves a man leaves, he is totally white, shakes a fist at nothing, pisses on the tiny white garden stones, oh I am lonely, again departs, precautionarily walking around this lawn … another man rises, totally red-faced, his lips are rosy and soft as a baby’s, he had me when I was encased in prison. I am not. Thousands of fuchsias surrounded me: ivy, soot, gook made out of begonia petals by her nervous fingers because they know they’re almost out-of-existence like the marks of hopscotch on a bombed-out street. The man I know is getting near me but now there are detours, this is a miniature golf course … and another man sticks his leg through the window, bewildered face like a lunatic’s, palms vertically flat beat the air, froth comes from his mouth.
‘Bastards. They’ve stolen me.’
–Kathy Acker. from “Translations of the Diaries of
Laure the Schoolgirl.” (1983) Essential Acker.
New York: Grove Press, 2002. Print, p. 175.
For over forty years, Bonnie Lucas has been constructing a beyond-the-pale through-the-looking-glass realm populated by enforced tropes of femininity exaggerated to be their most perverse and decorated with glimmering, magpie-like trappings of runaway rampant, mass-produced globalized consumption. RUSCHWOMAN is humbled, honored, and deeply pleased to present a rarely before seen yet key body of low relief wall sculptures the artist produced in 2006 and 2007. Each found portal composite is filled to overflowing with vestigial trappings of Lucas’ lifetime of collecting; the artist is revealed, in a sense, to be a Bo Peep who sheperdesses a shopped vocabulary of seeming rococo frivolity into a mindful mission of earnestness and absolute care.
Lucas’ appreciation for her assemblies of talismanic feminine figurines is expressed through her rescue of them from the nonchalant sense of disposability of sales bins, notions sections, and clearance racks. The artist’s affection directs her to gather these ornaments and oddities into an alternative value system that reconsiders a thing’s worth. But the adoration Lucas reserves for her objet is legible most of all through her repurposing—a necessary detachment from their intended uses wherein Lucas forces form and meaning open through a dismembering that combines a Destroy-She-Said-Marguerite-Duras capacity for joy with an elusive notion Freud observed in his 1919 essay “A Child Is Being Beaten,” that within certain violent fantasies the being beaten also stands for being loved.
These topsy-turvy, twisted love-fueled recovery efforts serve as antidotal counterpoints to the already everywhere means by which hatred for a woman and her body is continually signaled within a cultural marketplace stocked with tropes of gender but also their intersections with taxonomies of sexuality, class, age (of consent, of obsolescence, of expiration), relative autonomy, and the stagnant fairytale of a racialized whiteness circulated by our age’s most powerful storytelling apparatuses (Disney, et al). Among other oddities, to wit: plastic dolls, porcelain figurines, rag dolls, ringlets of glossy acrylic hair, dissociative mile long stares caught in an icy blue eye fringed in a drag queen’s improbably long lashes, costume jewelry, christening gowns, baby clothes, lingerie, underwear, sewing kits, miniature stiletto heels, plush toy animals, silk flowers, machine lace doilies, yarn, Japanime, something phallic, something old, and something new.
Lucas aggregates a pasture of pastel pinks that range from blush to bashful, confectionary, youthful, romantic, and demurely flushed. Sickly, radioactive greens—the unnatural growth of astroturfs, artificial pistachio flavoring, artificial mint flavoring, artificial matcha flavoring, the preponderance of fluorescent green goops as a science fiction trope—compliment, a formal allusion to the brisk violences that are everywhere suggested in Lucas’ oeuvre.
Lucas’ cut-and-paste psycho-erotics proceeds from the legacies of women-fixated Surrealists who emphasized the unlikely assemblage of gender as a process. Her constructions share a rapport with the jumbled accretions into which the confessional is secreted in mélanges of pop cultural detritus made by early-adopters of collage as a strategy including Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Meret Oppenheim, Carol Rama, and Eileen Agar. These lady pioneers not only disrupted the pervasiveness of a male gaze as the burgeoning art world’s de facto point of view, but went so far as to question the stability of binarisms or inherent traits that are presumed in that predictable mode of looking. As with these artists before her, Bonnie Lucas addresses the state of fragmentation and shimmering elusiveness of the Surreal female subject as she appears in, say, the reveries of Paul Delvaux or in Magritte’s deconstructed female nude The Eternally Obvious, 1930, or Shéhérazade the recurrent disembodied facial features trimmed in pearls. While sharing traits of deliberate brokenness and ornamental excess, Lucas consistently brings a literal and psychological depth to her densely layered doll parts and textile accoutrement.
Lucas’ work achieved maturity in the late 1970s in step with the legitimacy gained by a generation of New York artists who reclaimed sewing, fiber, and other material techniques historically relegated to women through their recontextualization in post modern developments like third wave feminism and a critique of capital that anticipated Reagan and his subsequent lackeys, pitting the tenderly handmade against mass production and even more immaterial economies of goods and services. And yet the Bad Seed stylings of her impish worry dolls and worldly Lolitas have been found obscene even in the populations at the margins. As her surrounding society struggled to reckon with demands for a total divestment from the conventionally feminine all the while measuring what is retained aesthetically, ontologically, and politically in the project of women’s empowerment, Lucas playfully persisted in her flirtations with girlish, coquettish deviance. In subsequent decades the pressures of her stand off with regulated female comportments have pushed through phalanx clichés into an expanded language of figuration: a mutant-monster pleasure-ravenous vector of plant, animal, baby doll, and supremely Id crystalline facets.
Twirrly – whirrly – green-gem-studded-deep miriardbreasted –
spume milk laced – carbonpaper – tinsel – tinfoil tinted –
frothknit – crochet – scallop filigree – galloping – stamping
Race glass sea – agog! Boundless – abounding –
Gog – agog! Cradle beloved bronzed – steel orb adventure!
Tall salt sea mate sweetheart – silver arrow beflitt by
Rocking – dipping carmine eyed – beaked – tied –gulls –
Bride – beauty gala – galore – – –
Pearl mother Aprhodite’s
Diamond nostrils ejaculate
Mine – thine –
–Baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven. “To Home.”
Body Sweats: The Uncensored Writings of Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2011. Print, p. 185.
Please find me a thread near the river
a ribbon for my throat
Is this hope in my cup or a sock?
This would be Red.
Incessantly stripped world must I enter
your chamber/I live in the morning’s attic
Am I poor or wise?
Am I awake?
Am I bride or nun?
What is fun?
I know I am strange and fake
Must I go to the spot where the man is?
I’d rather not
This would be White
–Ann Lauterbach. “A Clown, Some Colors, a Doll, Her Stories, a Song, a Moonlit Cove.” If in Time: Selected Poems 1975–2000. New York: Penguin Books, 2001. Print, p. 53.
“The prettiest in-crowd that you had ever seen /
Ribbons in our hair, and our eyes gleamed mean /
A freshmen generation of degenerate beauty queens….”
–Lana Del Rey. “This Is What Makes Us Girls.” Born to Die. Interscope Records, 2012
Several months into the disarray brought into the world with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Will Heinrich interviewed Lucas for the New York Times, mapping the ways she responds to the difficulties in the world through her complex material strategies. In their conversation, Lucas observed, “You know, this is a little tool for sewing [pointing to a needle], but made useless — it’s too small. But I feel like, by poking and spearing, I’m using it in a clever and wonderful way that emotionally is very rewarding to me. It’s tiny and strange and mildly violent to pierce things. Especially things that are so feminine, so loaded with prettiness…I’m yearning to make a small, beautiful universe that’s filled with the reality of the times — which is that things are dismembered and cut up. Because what’s going on outside is so scary and dark and worrisome, my little universe will reflect all that.” Read the full article here.
Compounded in Bonnie’s bricolage arrangements are pointed characterizations aplenty that punch holes through romantically conservative narratives of girls maturing quietly into compliant women. Sweet and nasty, Lucas mines the potential for a contrary capacity for resistance on her own terms amidst anxious compilations of high femme performances as they’ve been remembered in toys and tchotchke. Barbies and cartoon princesses, emancipated Britney shopping at Target, next-gen gender-flex JoJo Siwa, femme queen ballroom categories, puckering Lana Del Rey, fae Cara Delevingne, Bratz dolls and Lizzo’s big Grrrls, the ladylike, razor sharp battling of Barbara Cartland and Jackie Collins, Eve and Villanelle—the latter clad in a voluminous Molly Goddard gown in hot pink tulle—it girls of the so-called “dirtbag left” Anna Khachiyan and Dasha Nekrasova, Charli D’Amelio and her coterie of tiktok influencers, Poppy: these and more anecdotal positions within or adjacent to white feminism are all brought under the sway of Lucas’ inquiries into the how and why such standpoints have been maintained in our civilization.
The city I dreamt of: it was here that I heard the voice of Mary the Whore Who Gave Her All For Love, here I stared at the beautiful look of Violette injected by the blackest ink, here finally Justus and Betelgeuse, Verax and Hair and all the girls with the names of the stars the openings of doors magnetized the young girls. They no longer know what they’re doing. Invisible rays make this nothingness where everything is possible, possible.
Anonymity by imposing no image reveals space.
This is the beginning of love. For you it’s of no importance but for me it has every importance.
You also said: ‘You don’t understand why I’m bothering with you because I have so much to give and you have nothing to give.’
I’m not bothering with you now.
–Kathy Acker. ”Diaries of Laure the Schoolgirl.” (1983) P. 178.
Image: Bonnie Lucas. Girl with Purse, 2007. Detail view.
Mixed media sculpture. 12h x 13.5w x 6.5d.
Bonnie Lucas was born in 1950 in Syracuse, New York. She completed a B.A. in Art History from Wellesley College and an MFA from Rutgers University. In the decades that have followed, her work has been exhibited throughout the United States (New York, Cambridge, Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Oakland) and abroad (Netherlands, Finland, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia). In the 1980s, she presented a series of solo exhibitions with the Avenue B Gallery in New York. Her work has been included in projects at the Drawing Center, the International Studio Curatorial Program, Sideshow Gallery, the Painting Center, Art in General, the DeCordova Museum, the Dutch Textile Museum, and Bellevue Art Museum among other institutions. In 2011 Lucas was interviewed by MSNBC.com, and her work has been written about in Artforum, ARTnews, The New York Times, The Village Voice, The New Yorker, and USA Today. In 2014 her work was the subject of a survey exhibition at Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Gallery, an artist-run space in New York. Following on this extensive survey, Lucas presented solo exhibitions at JTT in 2017 and 17ESSEX in 2018. Lucas lives and works in New York City.