O Henrietta at the Hex Factory
October 7-November 30, 2011
Reading through a PDF obtained from Cornell University Library of “Beliefs and Superstitions of the Pennsylvania Germans”, by Edwin M. Fogel, 1915, a 410 page document which has the full spectrum of folk beliefs on every aspect of life and death of the Deitsch, I was devastated to discover that the chapter on 'Sex' had been completely deleted. The Deitsch being largely country folk have a very humorous and earthy side, and to completely censor this topic at a prestigious University of higher learning is doing a great dis service to humanity. Censorship seems to play a major part in what these institutions practice, which brings us to the current show at the Hex Factory, a gallery for evolutionary Germanic Tribal Art in East Kensington, Philadelphia.
O. Henrietta's lust for life, love, and sex has filled the space here in such away that it is perceived by the educated art establishment in Philadelphia that she has marked her territory and they should stay away or run the risk of being urinated upon, their fear may stem from the possibility that they may deserve and enjoy that.
Such a reaction to this work, underscores the importance of the show. A frank look at sexuality through a woman's eyes is still dangerous, and that would be a good word in describing the impact this show has had. Our pluralistic, politically corrected kultur retains the monotheistic male fear of a goddess/woman that is sexually powerful. This fear is at least as old as the book of Deuteronomy. So it seems that the Visual Arts are in full support of the removal of the asherah from the temple, in this case Temple University, more on that later.
Theatre seems to have thrived on subject matter that is sexually charged. About a block away from the Hex Factory, the Walking Fish Theatre, 2509 Frankford Avenue is featuring a play by Kristen Scatton entitled, “Porn for Women” and ever since Hair back in the day, actors and actresses have been cavorting on stage completely nude. But enough soapbox rhetoric.
The work also marks a transition and growth in O Henrietta's evolution. Her visceral grasp of sexuality from her past has recombined with a new found identity in the Pa German Hexerei of her ancestors. Initially this seems to be a very peculiar combination but in fact it has made her work even stronger and unflinching. In particular her 4'x4' canvas entitled, “Sex Magic” features a gigantic male genitalia hovering just above its female counterpart just after or just before their union. The black negative space that contrasts and defines the pale off white paint of their bodies, stands out as a positive shape, which is what first catches your attention from a great distance. O Henrietta has said that she structured this canvas as a Hex Sign, using a square and crossing it to determine a center point and in doing so created a magic square in which she tranced while executing it. This is powerful medicine and compliments her more traditional 'Hex' featured on the promo for the show. This piece, simply entitled, “Sex Hex” has a hex motif reminiscent of Lee R. Gandee's triple protection Hex of a six pointed star combined with a rossette to which Henrietta has added, a 'cock star' which explodes from the surface of this strong traditional design. No doubt this is also what kept the public at bay, fearing that they make get struck by this array of very well endowed penises.
On the large wall, are six panels of the work that initially got her in hot water at Tyler's school for Art Education where the work was not allowed to be shown. Heterosexual coupling is depicted in various positions executed with chalk and mixed materials on thin Luann plywood which looks torn and frayed. The skin on one is very sensuously articulated with white chalk and the sweat of the female is so real you can almost smell sex in the panel entitled, “Leverage” “Player and Puma” is the name of this series of panels.
A final antidote to this show, A promotional image in the storefront window for this show caught the attention of a 'streetwalker' of the sort that are seen in East Kensington on occasion. Her reaction was of shocked dismay that such work was being openly displayed at the Gallery. Our neighbor, “Charlie” a Vietnamese American couldn't help to appreciate the irony of this and told her that buying and selling bootleg porno on the street or train was ok. Violence on tv was ok, obviously paying for sex on the street was ok, but sexually charged art shown in a Gallery is 'verboten'?
After the initial shock the public seems to suffer from in this work the hope by this author is that the gentle loving sharing the coupling actually embodies will be a positive transformational viewing experience.. The intimacy of these 'moments' is what is so very beautiful here. The artist's purely romantic need/memory of a loving sexual relationship is what has manifested itself on these extraordinary panels. This subject is one that defines the human condition. The tragedy is that this need is so dysfunctionally controlled and exploited in our everyday existence. The only question worth asking is why? Thats right, Cornell University, Temple University, why?
The work is uniquely a marriage of Deitsch Hexerei and sexual healing and it will of great interest to see what O Henrietta does next.
The show runs through to November 30, 2011 at the Hex Factory, 2080 East Cumberland Street, Philadelphia, PA 19125, phone 917 375 4982, email [email protected]
Hunter Yoder, 10/18/2011