Tuesday, August 28, 2012 at 11:11AM


August 23, 2012


FORT WORTH, Texas -  brand 10 + and x art spaces present AKA, two shows of video and photography featuring the artists: Nina Schwanse at and x art space and Heagan Bayles, Santiago Forero, Kerry Pacillio and Elissa Stafford at brand 10 art space. In all the works these artists employ costume and disguise to challenge traditional views of popular cultural icons. Rather than being mere impersonators these artists twist and expand on the myths surrounding these avatars by embracing the guise of another.

Santiago Forero challenges the stereotype of the hero as a towering, musclebound champion who's soul remains hidden behind a steely - eyed mask. Forero's hero, small in stature and dressed in finely detailed costume, brings a quiet dignity and strength to the ideal. Through his expressive face and pose, he leaves no doubt in his ability to prevail.

As A. O. Scott reported in The New York Times pop cultural heroes are "... Regular folks gifted or cursed with extraordinary abilities". Certainly, Heagan Bayles' self-portraits as Darth Vader bring the fallen angel of Star Wars fame back down to earth. Vader's mask, while supporting his life functions, robs him of his identity as a sympathetic character. Bayles humanizes the avatar of " The Dark Side" as he reminds us how hard it is to put aside our public personas even in our most private moments.

The subjects of Elissa Stafford's photographs rely on disguise in order to express aspects of their true selves. By donning her handmade hoods, her subjects allow her to photograph them as they reveal their secrets to her. Through the anonymity of disguise, her sitters are able to have these cathartic moments.

IMAGE : Panty Bandit, 2011 by Elissa Stafford courtesy of Red Arrow Gallery, Dallas, Texas

Kerry Pacillio dons a blond wig and homespun blouse as she lip-syncs to the country classic song " It only hurts for a little while" by The Ames Brothers. With a gentle smile and static pose she gives a gender twist to this lovelorn song.

Nina Schwanse’s video, Civil Realness: Grant vs. Lee, was originally made for a group show commemorating the Civil War at Good Children Gallery in New Orleans.  The video portrays two masculine historical war heroes re-staging a series of battles against a greenscreen studio backdrop.  In this re-enactment, however, generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee are represented as drag queens.  The gender bending is four-fold: in both personae, the female artist is in the role of the male queen (a man playing a woman), who in turn is playing a historically masculine role. 

This work takes as its method the appropriation, performance and reinvention of cultural mythology.  In addition to lip-synching to Mariah Carey, most of the dialog is adapted from the 1990’s animated show Celebrity Death Match.  The source material is transformed, however, through a performative strategy that favors idiosyncratic femininity and embraces racial, class, and sexual difference.


The naked greenscreen references a television production studio while dismantling its functionality as such.  As a rear window onto which anything can be projected, the chroma-key background symbolizes the transformative potential of video space itself.  This intrinsically voyeuristic screen of desire serves as a site onto which politics of the body are often enacted.  Despite its flamboyant caricatures and blatant humor, this seemingly whimsical vogueing contest still alludes to the physical horror of the Civil War.  The trauma of a queered gendered body is conflated with a wartime era that remains a contested symbol of racial politics in the American South. 


AKA is organized by the brand 10 art space founders Heagan Bayles, Christine Bisetto, Matthew Clark and Kathy Webster. An opening reception will be held on Saturday September 8 from 1 – 9pm.

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Article originally appeared on brand10 (http://www.brand10artspace.com/).
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