Saturday, Molly Crabapple opened her latest exhibit Annotated Muses, a series of portraits of her friends.
Over several months social media followers watched Crabapple collect ephemera from her interactions with influential muses, pasting the scraps together to form an expansive canvas. The cartoonish nudes painted on these rough surfaces highlight the subjects’ fabulous beauty, and for completion each scrawls words across their own image.
The grim visual effect is like a close up look at souls processed by a sausage plant (or social media): Vital tokens of humanity are ground into a coarse texture, extruded into nude skin, and pan fried in the fat of their most authentic persona. Meaning is layered on like the splattered paint of Crabapple’s illustrations, in excess and without care. The wild compositions that result are abrasive and jarring, with the exception of one brilliant slash of red.
Front and center, a not-so-cartoonish, stylishly textured full body nude of social media superstar and porn actress Stoya reclines on a spattering of blood, rosy cheeked, arms raised displaying pert breasts, the large canvas dominating others (much like her twitter follower count). She undresses at the opening, painting her words then and there, a special honor that further sets this piece as the focal point in the series. Other subjects are seen posing in front of their portraits, some in imitation of the painting. The mess is completed with a drastic and final layer of horror.
These recall an earlier work, OpPornPixie, Crabapple’s self-portrait from 2014. The dollish, cartoonish rendering of Crabapple’s features are emblazoned with comments appropriated from “haters” (and others). That grim jumping off point for this deeply gruesome exhibition of her friends leaves me wondering: Who will be sacrificed next?