You've seen her covered with chocolate. You've seen her weilding yams in unorthodox ways. Now you can see her...bake a cake!
Karen Finley's back, and domesticity's apparently got her. Her latest work, The American Chestnut, looks at the chores of baking, gardening and do-it-yourself projects. Lest we imagine that this controversial performance artist has lost her edge, Finley will also use the American chestnut tree -- once mighty in this country, now blighted by illness -- as a metaphor to point up societal woes.
According to PS 122 spokesperson Ron Lasko, "The multi-media piece contains two films, one of which shows Finley squirting breast milk onto black velvet becoming -- in her words -- `a lactating Jackson Pollack.' Another film has her running naked through a museum, comparing her body with those of the sculptures." Among the other topics she discusses include a fantasy of Winnie The Pooh at an S&M bar.
The American Chestnut has its New York premiere Sept. 11-28, at Performance Space 122 on First Ave. In the East Village.
Finley, a passionate and often angry performer, has been mixing installations and visual art with her monologues since she moved to New York in 1984, thanks to an National Endowment for the Arts grant. (Along with photographer Andres Serrano, Finley caught the brunt of anti-NEA heat for her use of nudity and deliberately provocative performance techniques.) Among Finley's honors are a Guggenheim Fellowship and an honorary doctorate from the San Francisco Art Institute. Previous Finley works include 1985's I'm An Ass Man, A Certain Level Of Denial, The Constant State Of Desire and We Keep Our Victims Ready. The latter was particularly incendiary to conservative lobbyists and led to the denial of another NEA grant for Finley on the grounds of "indecency." Spokesperson Lasko told Playbill On Line, "There's no NEA money in Chestnut. In fact, this PS 122's first season without the NEA. We didn't get a dime."
For tickets ($15-$20) and information on The American Chestnut call (212) 477-5288.
--By David Lefkowitz