Take a peek inside Adrienne Outlaw's glory holes
Artist cooks up a heady concoction with Witch's Brew
If Larry Flynt decided to turn away from T&A and try his hand at art making, it might look something like the lascivious and lark-filled work of Nashville artist Adrienne Outlaw. Like the climactic scene in Roman Polanski's horror film Repulsion, in which a wall comes alive with groping, reaching hands, Outlaw's solo show Witch's Brew has turned the walls at Whitespace Gallery into a riot of randy, outlandish protuberances. The tubers, velveteen phalluses, breast- and snake-like structures are often surrounded by fur or encrusted with beads, and command attention with their sticky-outy-ness.
As if these sassy appendages weren't enough, the artist has outfitted each tube and faux mammary with a peephole through which viewers can eyeball all manner of perplexing matter hidden within. If they dare. The materials involved in Outlaw's mad scientist cacophony sound like the recipe for a 6-year-old's backyard make-believe soup pot: shrimp shells, fur, honey, barnacles, ladybug wings. There is something distinctly naughty, a bit off-putting, occasionally Un Chien Andalou-scarifying about Outlaw's work in Witch's Brew. The art evokes kaleidoscopes or panoramic sugar eggs, if Louise Bourgeois and Martha Stewart got together for a craft session. Peek in one pinup-worthy super-cone and you'll find a magnified view of spaghetti-like tendrils bubbling with egg-shaped polyps. Outlaw has described some of her work as raising ethical issues about biotechnology, though it could be more generally described as having to do with bodily fascination and revulsion.
In addition to the ornamental glory holes, Witch's Brew includes a game of dress-up involving a church-pew-like velvet shrine and other objects that suggest Eskimo artifacts or Cyclops chew toys. The only disappointment that occasionally ruptures the show's otherworldly effect is the use of recognizably commonplace metal lamp shades to encase video works featuring body parts and replicating cells.
The show itself feels like a cross between a 16th-century European cabinet of curiosities, and something you'd see at a Tenderloin peep show. In a witty affront to our own voyeuristic impulses, often when you bend down to peer inside one of Outlaw's works such as "Cadeau (Death Passes On)" what greets you within a ridiculously elongated breast-like form is your own probing, ravenous eyeball reflected back at you in a tiny mirror. You go in feeling like an OB/GYN and then recoil in horror at the accusatory self-surveillance. One of Witch's Brew's best features isn't the objects themselves but the participatory, engaged demands it puts on viewers. Outlaw makes the act of viewing a remarkably self-aware, slightly nerve-wracking endeavor, equal parts trepidation and titillation.