Linder Sterling pushes your buttons

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 by PATRICIA MORA

 

Peek-a-bloom: British artist Linder Sterling’s The Migration of Symbols, a Duratrans-on-lightbox, is on display at the Goss-Michael Foundation exhibit, “Linder,” through January 2013

It is my ardent wish that God, Yahweh and Buddha continue to bless Kenny Goss. Under the aegis of the Goss-Michael Foundation, he brings outré artwork to Dallas that keeps vestiges of insular boosterism at bay. Goss’ latest effort, LINDER, on view through Jan. 31, shows off works by British artist Linder Sterling. Her recent art is a hybrid of soft porn and floral motifs that make it crystal clear that the incipient neo-retro landscape was blasted decades back. Linder — she’s known by just one name — has been taking aim at ancient notions of women as chattel for more than 30 years. What makes it all deliciously marvelous is that she is such a lady. Linder exudes an abundance of gracious affability. For a woman known as a strident feminist who worked in the punk scene in the late ’70s, she seems surprisingly soft-spoken and even a bit shy. When I learned she resides in England’s Lake District, the verdant landscape immortalized by the likes of Coleridge and Wordsworth, my mind reeled. It went cinematic while I imagined her enjoying tea in proper china cups, surrounded by cut flowers and camelback sofas.

Against Interpretation

 

I only mention this because it seems at odds with her well-documented performance at the Hacienda Club in Manchester, circa 1982. For the event, she wore a netted black dress filled with discarded chicken entrails from a Chinese restaurant. While performing a song — “Too Hot to Handle” — she whipped her dress open to show off an enormous black dildo purchased at a sex store called the Family Harmony Center.

The humor isn’t lost on her. Nor is the irony. She is whip-smart and her performance discomfited an audience deemed immune to shock. Her chicken-meat dress predated that of Lady Gaga’s by 29 years. Linder has said: “I thought, that’s it. Where do you go from here?”

Apparently, plenty of places. Linder has had shows in London, Munich, Chicago, Vienna, Paris and Prague. Her performance, “The Working Class Goes to Paradise,” was first presented in Manchester in 2000 and re-presented for the Tate Triennial in 2006. Her film Forgetful Green was commissioned for Frieze Projects, London, in 2010. And the aforementioned Mr. Goss has a breakfast area in his home  delineated by 22 of her pieces, all of which have been commandeered for Goss-Michael’s current exhibition. They are a mashup of female torsos and typical household appliances, including vacuum cleaners, toasters and televisions. She operates — pun intended —with a surgeon’s scalpel and stacks of magazines that range from “cookery magazines for women to DIY,” she says, “and pornography magazines for men.” She meticulously cuts out images and then strategically arranges them as collages  that morph into supercolliders of sexuality and commerce. They nudge us to ponder the not-so-changing landscape vis-à-vis the role of women in the world, the workplace, even in the cozy environs commensurate with domesticity.

Artist Linder Sterling photographed at Goss-Michael Foundation by Nan Coulter

Linder sat across from me at a conference table. We could have been chums rather than renowned artist versus journalist. She’s kind and, to utilize an overused phrase, down to earth. She is  also embarking on a grand retrospective of her work, “Femme/Objet,” opening in Paris at the Musée d’rt Moderne on Feb. 1. She is excited to be working with ballerinas for the upcoming show. Says she: “I grew up in a mining town outside Liverpool, and nothing could have been more remote from this tiny little town than ballerinas.” She is clearly fascinated by them, and the attenuated bodies honed for ballet seem ideal material for an ultrafeminist and her scalpel. Still, Linder’s demeanor reminds me of an aphorism from Rumi: “Your presence heals me.” Linder is the comforting nurse for whom the injured long.

PATRICIA MORA is a Dallas writer and a Fellow of the Writer’s Guild for the Warhol Foundation/Capital Campaign Fund. She has provided art commentaries for The Dallas Morning News, the National Endowment for the Humanities, A+C: Arts + Culture Magazine and the International Association of Art Critics. She can be reached via patriciamora@mac.com.

 

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