From the first moment one steps into the Fine Arts Gallery at UC Irvine these days, any cherished childhood memories of fairy tales are challenged--and given a very adult perspective.
Eight large canvases by Carole Caroompas, on view through Oct. 28, are psychological landscapes which both confront and contradict social and sexual preconceptions by challenging the very foundations on which traditional fairy tales are based.
Caroompas, who grew up in Newport Beach, was on hand at the exhibition opening Sunday.
"The reason that I chose Grimm's fairy tales (which dominate the show) is because they reflect a particular kind of voice culturally, and in terms of voice I mean a male dominant cultural voice," she said. "These paintings are of a different voice than that."
Her paintings--which juxtapose the mythic and the erotic, the allegorical and the explicit, strive for a re-evaluation of gender roles on both a psychological and sexual level.
"I don't choose images that come from the stories always because then these would simply be illustrations," said Caroompas.
So, in her "Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty)," for instance, "the central figure actually comes from a medical book and it's a cutaway of a cadaver of a woman's head. Even though it's an image of death, I thought it was a very beautiful image. I thought there was something very quiet about it, very peaceful, and also that it reflects the idea of mortality and perhaps immortality."
The cadaver is surrounded by a structure of the Egyptian universe upheld by Egyptian gods and goddesses, images of loom-spinners and male and female body-builders. The central image is upheld by a large hand with stigmata. A man sleeps, as does a child, and a Japanese couple with enlarged genitals make love. "You get a hopeful image alongside the idea of living and death," Caroompas said.
The art's explicit content made at least one student ask Caroompas how much negative reaction her work provokes.
"Part of the body of work was shown at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions last year," Caroompas recalled. "I actually got some pretty terrific reviews from that show. There were really no problems except that I got a few strange letters. And I mean weird."
Works by Carole Caroompas are on view Tuesdays through Sundays through Oct. 28 in the Fine Arts Gallery at UC Irvine, Campus Drive and Bridge Street, Irvine. Gallery hours: noon to 5 p.m. Admission: free. Information: (714) 856-4259.