Mel Kadel reinvents Superwoman, at Moore

I’ve always suspected that Superwoman was really a trannie (for sure Xena). Big shoulders. Big hair. Big powers. But she was nothing like any woman–or trannie–I ever knew. She’s Superman in a bustier–a weak copy of a guy’s dream of adventure and power.

Mel Kadel, Personal Trophy, 2009, Pen, ink wash and collage

L.A. artist Mel Kadel’s exhibit Spacing Awake, a handful of illustrative drawings in the hallway at Moore College,  is more what I imagine a woman superhero would be like. She meets dream-world perils with a feisty determination and a flare of rainbow colors. She can be a little lumpy or dumpy–or not. But never does she look like a bimbo, or pout. Dora the Explorer grows up.

Mel Kadel, Water Island, 2009, pen, ink wash and collage

The imaginative work is obsessively made. Kadel stains her paper with coffee, and uses hand-mixed ink washes, along with micron .005 pens, pencils, and blades for collage. (Here’s a link to an interview with her on Fecal Face). The meticulous attention to detail supports the repetitive deco patterning that recalls fabrics and wallpapers–a traditional woman’s world. But the little heroine that could is also the star student of her own self-improvement project. And she shares her adventures and insights with women who are just like herself in a sort of self-contained consciousness-raising group.

Mel Kadel, Small Escape, 2009, pen and ink wash

It has been about 40 years since the feminist movement of the ’70s. And here’s something that has changed. Kadel’s delightful survivor (who makes me think of Joy Feasley’s campfire girl persona) doesn’t seem to care whether you think she’s sexy or not. Kadel does care, maybe a trifle too much, whether you and I like the drawings, however. That’s my only reservation.

Spacing Awake will be up until April 16, 2011. Kadel, a Moore alumna, has a show in L.A. now until March 5 at Merry Karnowsky Gallery.