Further Tales of Young Marie Antoinette at Gallery Joe continues Marilyn Holsing’s fascination with the notorious French queen. The exhibition generally avoids presenting an overly sympathetic view of the royal, who may or may not be deserving of her disgraced reputation. Instead, in the imagined scenes, young Marie’s identity serves as a jumping off point for the artist. Meticulously detailed, Holsing’s works on paper resemble tapestries from a distance, complete with toile illustrations.
The show’s most interesting works are those where Marie’s royal status is momentarily forgotten, not highlighted, like in the installation “Young Marie in Hiding” or the work on paper,”Young Marie Repairs a Rent.”
Only in “Young Marie Repairs a Rent” does young Marie appear unconcerned with her personal appearance. Absorbed in her sewing, she is not surrounded by members of her court. Isolated in the forest setting and performing a lowly task that is not fitting for her royal status, Marie takes on the appearance of a young girl rather than the future queen.
With the exception of this work, the future queen appears surrounded by her ladies-in-waiting. In “Mockery,” two members of her court walk behind her, pulling the ends of their hair above their heads to imitate the excessive height of her lavish hairdo.
While many of the works illustrate this jealousy toward the future queen, others depict the more complicated relationship between the girls. In “Flattery,” Marie walks before her ladies-in-waiting. As with the other works, the adolescent girls are dressed identically to Marie in an effort to copy her. Marie and the rest of the young girls carry flowers, reflecting their desire to appear feminine. As Marie walks before the girls in demonstration, their expressions are a mixture of disinterest, judging glances, and admiration. With her head tilted to one side and an odd contortion of her body, Marie appears unnatural and posed, and her smile also reeks of artifice.
In the vault gallery, two installation pieces appear in adjacent corners of the dimly lit space. Each uses the artist’s familiar material of flashe and acrylic paint, but this time, cut paper and a projector that hangs above each corner are used to create two dioramas. In “Gossipers and Tongue Waggers,” Marie is again surrounded by her ladies-in-waiting, who continue to mock her by sticking out their tongues and gossiping behind her back. A soundtrack of the girls’ chatter in French plays along with nature sounds.
In the other installation, “Young Marie in Hiding,” the future queen is immersed in a dense forest. She is shown holding a lamb between gnarled branches, and the projector above creates menacing shadows. Of all of the works in the show, it is the most heavy-handed and sympathetic.
“Further Tales of Young Marie Antoinette” is on view at Gallery Joe through January 7, 2012.