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Myths and Perils 

The time, as Hamlet once lamented, is out of joint. He went on to say, "O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right!" Surely Mayor Nagin must have uttered those very words a lot in recent times -- or maybe that was what his Chocolate City speech was really all about. And recently, not content with floods, Ma Nature gave us tornadoes, and we never have tornadoes here. As the Houston Post put it, "How can one city be so lucky?" But if you've just about decided we're finished, buck up, it turns out the whole country is totally screwed, according to recent books and news stories.

Not only are we still stuck with Bush, but now it seems that romantic love is no longer even possible for those most likely to be single, according to Jillian Strauss whose book, Unhooked Generation, just came out. She says, "People in their 20s and 30s see commitment to one person as a narrowing of lifestyle choices." Hmmm. St. Valentine must be flailing in his grave. Here we just had this flood tragedy and a lot of folks probably assumed there must be a silver lining, like maybe falling in love with someone fabulous while heroically rebuilding Gentilly, just like in old movies, and now this wonkish woman comes along and shoots Cupid right out of the sky. Ouch.

New Orleans glass sculptor Mitchell Gaudet gives us a more traditional view in his Myth of Romance show, but even this offers scant comfort, focusing on the fickle nature of romance. His Cupid and Psyche is emblematic. In the myth, Psyche is a mortal who grows up so foxy that she incurs the jealousy of Venus who wants her winged son, Cupid, to take her out of the picture by making her fall in love with some lowlife type. Typically, perhaps, he botched the job, and he and Psyche ended up falling for each other.

Gaudet's cast glass evokes the look of ancient relics just unearthed at some Lower Garden District archeological dig, with Cupid rising over fallen columns and a pale head in a glass bubble set into the magma-like mass. A wall of translucent glass daggers features iconic handles in the form of heads or symbolic objects, and a row of "books" -- cast-glass plaques hinged together with wire -- displays a narrative sequence of forms and flourishes like a story line of architectural antiques, even as glass butterflies and daggers in the window recap the speculative nature of love. All of which is spelled out in a row of glass bas relief heads with definitions of terms like scoundrel, bitch, slut, bastard and tramp inscribed on their foreheads. The definition of "bitch," for instance, beyond a female dog includes not only ordinary references to "a malicious or unpleasant woman," but also the black rap reference to all women as "bitches." Nearby, an antique claw machine with cast-glass figures completes a vision of human attraction as a grab bag, in what must surely be Gaudet's most colorfully ironic series in recent times.

The decidedly mixed view of the human female contained in myths, legends and biblical tales is the subject of Emily Hogan's Eve's Legacy paintings at Poet's Gallery. Hogan feels that the biblical Eve legend causes women to start out with one strike against them as this sketchy assessment is internalized. Her paintings reflect this ambiguity, so Thicket, for instance, depicts a woman whose thick head of hair turns into a thorny briar patch. Others are more allegorical. In Womb, a woman holds a bowl of blood over which hovers a crimson orchid attached by an umbilical cord, while in Terra, a female nude reclines over a landscape of submerged roots, a reference to the ancient linkage of women with the earth and nature in general. All are painted in a kind of surreal pre-Raphaelite style, but where the pre-Raphaelites were detail freaks, Hogan's flat, poster-like minimalism can seem a tad disconcerting. Even so, it will be interesting to see where she goes from here. Eden wasn't built in a day, after all.

click to enlarge Mitchell Gaudet's cast purple glass Cupid and Psyche suggests a relic from a Lower Garden District - archeological dig in what must be his most colorfully ironic - series in recent times.
  • Mitchell Gaudet's cast purple glass Cupid and Psyche suggests a relic from a Lower Garden District archeological dig in what must be his most colorfully ironic series in recent times.
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