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Feminist Art, Subverted 

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Feminism ain't what it used to be. Originally intended as a survey of recent feminist art, Like a Prayer (now at Barristers Gallery) morphed into something else once the artist submissions started to arrive. Curators Martina Batan and Andy Antippas decided to work with what they had in hand, which Antippas generalized as "woman coping," citing the example of "a married woman's portrait of her former lesbian lover, or a woman with a chained up refrigerator preparing a meal of pills." Even as 1970s feminist art sells for increasingly higher prices, yesterday's ambitions seem to have subsided into the unsteady shuffle that is the 21st century so far, and agendas appear increasingly convoluted. Take Berlin-based Bob Tooke's painting I Was Hitler's Bitch (pictured). Here a bemused Fuhrer sits surrounded by four crudely painted women named Gaga, Paris, Britney and Lindsay, and while they all look like airheads, none resembles their namesake. Are airheaded divas just a cover for a fascist plot? Tooke's partner, Silke, offers few clues in Thank God We Never Met, a painting of a woman pouring booze on her dog as space mutants crawl out from under her dress, which seems to be made of bricks. If meanings are elusive, there is no shortage of attitude in works like Nikki Crook's Venus in Furs, a portrait of an elegant bohemian woman with a twisted expression. Likewise, Lilian Butter's Retribution painting of a goth gal with green skin, pink hair and blue nails carrying a bloody crowbar is chilling. The same might be said for Raven Creature's painting of a nude pink zombie. But Chalmette-based Evelyn Cade's Confusion On I-10 painting of a woman wading in floodwater as she flashes her breast — as if for beads — as trapped storm survivors huddle forlornly on an I-10 ramp, is a perfect metaphor for a decade when media circuses passed for news, and flood victims were left to fend for themselves. For this, Cade must surely qualify as Chalmette's expressionist in residence par excellence. — D. Eric Bookhardt

Like a Prayer: Reflections on the 21st Century Feminine

Through Dec. 31

Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506; www.barristersgallery.com

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