Discussing how artists adapt traditional stories to give mythic form to the very real dilemmas of contemporary life, Jack Zipes's "Fairy-Tale Collisions" centers on Paula Rego, Kiki Smith, and Cindy Sherman. From a generation of women who have attained prominence since the 1980s, these artists alter fairy-tale imagery to subvert or rewrite social roles and codes.
In "Metamorphosis of the Monstrous," Marina Warner discusses works in the exhibition in the context of historical conceptions of monsters as expressions of alterity, bestiality, or sinfulness. Her reminder that contemporary monster images offer "a promise and a warning about the variety, heterogeneity, and possible combinations and recombinations in the order of things" sets the stage for Suzanne Anker's essay, punningly titled "The Extant Vamp (or the) Ire of It All: Fairy Tales and Genetic Engineering." Considering representations of hybrid bodies by Patricia Piccinini, Janaina Tschape, Saya Woolfalk, and others, which evoke imagined beings of the past as a way to envision the recombinant creatures that may lie in the future, Anker shows how artists explore the social, ethical, and future implications of biological design and enhanced evolution.
Accompanying an exhibition of contemporary art in which depictions of marvelous creatures and fantastic narratives provide both chills and delights, the essays in Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination explore the meaning of this fabulist revival through the lenses of social and art history, literature, feminism, animal studies, and science.
About the Author
Mark W. Scala is Chief Curator at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville. Exhibitions he has organized include Paint Made Flesh, an international survey of figure painting in the United States, Germany, and Britain since World War II, and Whispering Wind: Recent Chinese Photography.