Topsy Turvy Tales

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Kate Gilmore's work defies the American expression "Never let them see you sweat." Instead, she puts struggle at center stage in her performance-based video works. Masquerading as hyperfeminine in heels, frilly dresses, and copious makeup, the New York-based artist (currently living in Italy as the recipient of a Rome Prize) constructs and faces off against elaborate obstacles, ultimately making a statement about the struggles faced by women. Interestingly, however, Gilmore has made her own bed, in each of these scenarios--but refuse to lay in them. Instead, she displays equal parts strength and humility as she attempts to ascend the mountains of junk she builds, or to navigate the otherwise precarious, emotionally-marked spaces of her own design. Gilmore will be showing recent and new works in two upcoming solo shows, both opening January 31st, at San Antonio's Artpace and Madrid's Maisterra Valbuena, respectively. In each of these works, the artist continues to flesh-out questions about the relationship between fame, talent, and emotional satisfaction. In 2005 she kept her chin up in With Open Arms, a video in which a dolled-up Gilmore bowed graciously to a tomato-throwing audience. In the more recent Baby, Belong to Me (2006/07), we see the artist's foot, wrapped in a ballerina slipper and suspended by a noose which one of her hands works to untie. In the background are stenciled hearts, bleeding paint at their nadirs. The addition of a song from the musical Fame creates a narrative about an emerging artist struggling to reconcile the desire for love and success. Like so many of her works, this piece is a perfectly concise visual representation of what it means to feel upside-down in this topsy turvy world. - Marisa Olson