Marjorie Salvaterra’s work is surreal. It is humorous; it is dark, and it unfolds like stills in a series on women under the stress of “supposed to be.” The work is about the pressure women put on their selves and each other; it is about the emotional toll of maintaining the straight-seamed, buttoned-up life in a “traditional American household.” More than anything, though, this work is about cracking. Salvaterra’s Sheila’s expose the emotional cost of appearing perfect.
Salvaterra presents “Sheila” as our everywoman. We see type-characters developed as effectively as individuals; costumes, styling, and especially the use of wigs aid in this. The moments we catch the Sheilas in are always hyper-charged and over-acted, but that’s where the work derives its allure. It is all in jest, after all.
Sheila goes through the motions, or so the titles would suggest: Sheila Goes to Market, Sheila Gardens, Sheila Preys, but we see our protagonist shopping with a snifter in her hand; laying in a flowered field in sunglasses, a cigarette and highball glass in-hand; and skulking in groups at what looks more like a backyard garden party than space of worship. In any case- something is definitely wrong with Sheila. She numbs her guilt, her shame, or her boredom through cigarettes snuck out the bathroom window or with a few doses of mother’s little helper, and then sometimes a few more. Our Sheila has secrets too- the kind that leave her outside a motel in the morning. Her bridge-girls and slumber parties, though, are more like caricatures of male fantasies. Sheila’s predicaments, then, expose type scenarios as much as personages playing in them.
The attainment of the idyllic life imparted on Salvaterra by her Mother and Grandmother came with guidelines like “‘Smile,’ ‘Don’t worry your pretty little head,’ and ‘Don’t tell anyone.’” This pressure was real, and it is still often still imposed on women. Salvaterra acts out against expectations in Sheila with Red Hair. Likely, for the women collaborating on the scenes with Salvaterra, this role-play is therapy in itself.
Marjorie Salvaterra is a self-taught Los Angeles-based artist. Her work has shown at the Griffin Museum, Massachusetts and screened at the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne’s Nuit des images. It has been featured in the Huffington Post and Lens Scratch. She is releasing a book HER with Glitterati this spring (2016).
Sheila With Red Hair
June 11 – August 13, 2016