It’s been a great year so far for “down there.” From Oprah’s va-jay-jay to Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan going Kojak, the female nether regions have rarely had it so good. Continuing in that vein—albeit with a tad more, ahem, coverage—is Monica Cook’s Pee Girls, which opens this Saturday at TAG Art Gallery.
All joking aside, the exhibit’s 14 realistic paintings of women urinating reveal a different (and lighter) side of an otherwise very serious artist. Cook is generally known for her large-scale portraits and murals. These are elaborate works—paintings that often feature highly detailed backgrounds of fantastic shapes and colors.
The Pee Girls paintings are simpler. They’re also a hell of a lot of fun. We see women in various stages of removing their panties and, well, doing you-know-what. All are clearly enjoying themselves. And with many, the bush is back—eat your hearts out Britney and Lindsay.
Cook got the idea for Pee Girls during the recent Magical Mundane exhibit at Chicago’s Bucket Rider Gallery. One of her friends was curator of the exhibit and asked her to participate.
Mundane’s aim was to take the most commonplace things in daily life and re-create them as extraordinary events. For Cook, urination fit the bill. “Women rarely, if ever, pee standing up,” says Cook in a recent email. “Not only is it an unusual experience, but it is somewhat empowering and liberating.”
Cook found friends to serve as models for her series. She photographed them in secluded spaces (such as men’s toilets), often after playful late nights on the town. You can see their fun in the paintings.
Indeed, it’s hard not to laugh or smile when you view “Untitled (Kitten).” It features a urinating woman in fitted T-shirt, jeans and panties down around her ankles. A robot box is on her head and her trusty kitten at her side. In works such as “Untitled (Wet Vac)” and “Untitled (Cowgirl),” the women laugh right along with the viewer.
Pee Girls are paintings made with super-glossy, alcohol-based ink on drafting vellum. The results are so realistic they look almost like photographs. Cook, however, insists they’re not sexual. True, the subject matter is often associated with a porn fetish. But in turning the images into paintings, Cook believes she elevates her subjects, and in the process creates art.
TAG owner Jerry Dale McFadden, like the majority of Cook’s other gallery representatives, is showing her work unframed, electing simply to tape the paintings to the wall.
Cook declined to give her works titles. McFadden gave them subtitles to differentiate them. All of the works are small, measuring a mere 14-by-17 inches, which is intended to make them seem intimate, jewel-like, even vulnerable.
McFadden originally wanted to exhibit Pee Girls with some of Cook’s more traditional large-scale paintings, but demand for those works is so great he wasn’t able to obtain any. Fortunately, Cook promises an upcoming TAG exhibit featuring some of those works.
In the meantime, McFadden wants TAG viewers will keep an open mind. He definitely expects crowd reactions. Most, he hopes, will be positive.
“These fun and whimsical works are sure to entertain and possibly catch some folks off guard,” he says.
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