The Drawers - Karina Kalvaitis   Commentary written by Julie Oakes

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Highly Recommended, Jan 11 - Feb 20, 2007

There was a time when the color pink was considered too soft for abstract expressionism and then De Kooning claimed it and ran with pink. There was a time when kitsch, despite the Pop movement's progressive claims, was untouchable and then Jeff Koons flipped kitsch upside down by blowing it big-side up. His puppy, covered in flowers and emblematic of everything cute, gained footing and barked. Karina Kalvaitis is also dealing with cute and yet she isn't transcending the sweetness through size, brash compositions or new media manipulations. She is relying on the pull of endearment and reinforcing belief with her line. Her sensitive drawing supports the potentially trite and causes cynicism to wane. The manatees are exquisitely rendered with such consideration to detail that her premise that they are worthy subjects for adult and often pre-occupied contemplation becomes a consideration. Vested with personalities and titled to further the take on their predicaments, they are out to win hearts and sneak under the contemporary veneer of hard skinned attitudes.

There is nothing apparently offensive. On first embarking into Kalvaitis' risky land of sentimentalism, the manatees pose themselves as harmless creatures and there is a hint of the cuddly perfection found in nature. But they are not engaged in the real environ of hunting for food and shelter but in a social interchange that parallels the human world. They seem to have lost their way in a cozy dream state where they mush and peer out of their little eyes with an incomprehensible nostalgia. They have become spineless. The drawing titled Spiney where the ectoderm of one manatee has sprouted little spikes is not regarded with welcome by the two that are obviously communicating to each other their suspicions on their morphing fellow. There are psychological repercussions to be garnered from too much cuteness. The manatees assume depression and pass meaningless bubbles back and forth between themselves. They become distracted by small circuses.

A fitting comparison to a meaningless life couched in a foil that resembles the plush bed-mates and cartoons of childhood, the strange world of muffled manatees is thought provoking. Is this the whimper of a tired civilization or is it an allowable slip into the maudlin reality where adults stack their beds with stuffed toys and fluffy pillows? Whatever the answer, Karina Kalvaitis has squeezed a lot of meaning into these seemingly innocent and very quiet drawings.

Copyright 2007,  Headbones Gallery