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Camille Schefter’s just-closed pine box derby at Nowspace critiqued American capitalism and puritanical sexual norms through representations of its cash crops: virgins, corn, and cars. The gallery was fair-like in the summer heat. Whimsical and erotic imagery recast the story of Western Expansion in what Schefter calls “alternative Americana.” She poked fun at the trope of the rugged pioneer, recasting him as the pent-up oppressor, whose stolen land and modified food are now national fetishes.
Resembling props, Schefter’s sculptures seem lifted from imaginary American interiors: a bored suburban home, a grandfather’s auto garage, a pietá hewn in the heartland. In Liberator (2017), a sex couch with curves like a car is draped in tassels and reupholstered with a flag featuring Joe Mauer from the Minnesota Twins. One could imagine a disgruntled, midwestern couple upon the couch, trying to reignite the spark. In Boston Virgin Faces West (2017), a room installation lined with wilting sod and encased in gold emergency blankets was missing its Virgin, though we know she would face west. It’s written on the wall in pen that she was also on her knees, perhaps at the mercy of how a “good girl” is supposed to behave.
How Ethanol Works (Tekakwitha) (2017) features the woman on the Land o’ Lakes butter box, “the original Indian maiden.” She’s portrayed as a clay figure and is perched on a wax warming pot before a gathering of platinum silicone-cast corn dildos. She is on her knees as on the butter box, now reclaiming her crop. The figure makes another appearance in History Painting (2017) a mural-like composition of old cars, sugar pines, and a mountainous landscape with a bright, buttery surface.
Schefter retooled an Americana narrative, tweaking it to reimagine familiar characters; a play between sexual fetish and fetish commodity became a throughline in pine box derby. In her critique of commodity fetishism through “timeless” symbolism, Schefter brings untold accounts to the foreground as a type of revisionist history with cynical wit but a playful touch, pointing out that American myth-making has historically been created by whomever has the power. In this arena, it’s Schefter.
Camille Schefter: pine box derby runs July 1-30, 2017 at NowSpace (5390 Alhambra Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90032).