Tonight I drove the 60 miles or so to Dallas to attend the opening reception for a couple of new shows at the Contemporary. The big show was a collection of photographs by various (mostly female) artists, but my real reason for making the trek was to see a smaller show of works by a former student of mine, Shelley Hampe, who is pursuing an MFA at TCU. She’s working through some tricky iconography involving childish images (teddy bears, assorted plush toys, etc.) rendered in an over-the-top, ultra-fem style. It’s potentially a very cool aesthetic gambit, but there’s the danger that she’ll be casually dismissed as some too sensitive girl artist making sweets. The gauzy thread drawings I saw tonight, though, had the resigned tough mindedness of someone beyond anger. Imagine a girlie take on the Humphrey Bogart character in African Queen as he climbs back into the leech-infested river, knowing he has to do it even though he fears leeches more than anything. Okay, that’s not possible, but I think she may be aiming at something like that.
She still has some progress to make on tightening up her vocabulary, ridding herself of stuff extraneous to the visual statement. It’ll be something to look forward to.