Blasting the Stereo

For other pieces Scott conjures up imagery that's more complex and more evocative. The exhibition includes three pieces from a series that takes on the demonization of black male sexuality, a topic so ripe with possibilities that Scott is able to go at it from a variety of directions. For Cuddly Black Dick (Thinking of A), she goes at it head-on, giving us a blond, rosy-cheeked white woman sprawled suggestively on a wire-mesh settee, gazing into space as she ponders the title object, the word object being key to Scott's conceptualization.

The other two representatives from the series are less blatant, yet more effective in their obliqueness. Cuddly Black Dick #4 is an unsettling conglomeration of elements, including a clear jar filled with bone fragments and capped with a gold beaded lid; what appears to be a green beaded lizard wrapped around the jar; and a Medusa's head of gold beaded wires snaking up the jar, with tiny ceramic skulls embedded here and there in the wires. The crowning touch is a purplish set of beaded male genitals plunging headfirst through the jar's lid. A small, cherubic, white child of indeterminate gender sits astride the phallus as if riding a horse.

Scott ventures further into metaphor with Cuddly Black Dick #2, which is a hermaphroditic creature, made of metallic ceramic beads, with breasts and a huge penis. Its head is that of an antelope, carved from wood in the manner of a tribal totem, and its upraised arms grasp a large eyeball. The creature, legs spread far apart, is also attached to a miniature wire structure that holds it above a square of milky stained glass with an eye painted on it.

I'm not quite sure what Scott is up to with some of these pieces, but they certainly pack a visual wallop. They're also slyly, dryly witty, as is the artist's Buddha Gives Basketball to the Ghetto.

But Scott is at her most powerful when she throws caution to the wind and goes in for the kill. Her ambitious 1995 mixed-media piece Somebody's Baby is a prime example. Hanging from the ceiling on strands of green beads that form a sort of cage is a large, mangled black body. Below it, on the floor, is a skull made of grains of rice. A ghostly white figure crouches on the body's head and shoulders, chunks of unidentifiable objects jut from its flesh, and the words nigger and hate are beaded onto its skin. There's no ambiguity here, just harrowing reminders of the legacy of racial strife.

There is no doubt some people will take offense at Michael Ray Charles' and Joyce J. Scott's use of such emotionally charged, potentially controversial imagery. That these images are still so volatile, however, is ample evidence of a need for art that addresses the issues they raise.

"Stereo Typocal Errors" is on display through March 21 at the Schmidt Center Gallery, Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton, 561-297-2966.

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