Ali Liebegott is a poet, novelist, television writer, and comedian. Alongside these pursuits, she has always been painting. This Saturday, she will show her paintings in Los Angeles for the first time in a two-person show with Nicole J. Georges, called DOGS and DYKES. (7-10pm at Junior High Gallery in Hollywood).
As Liebegott leads me into the studio in her home, she issues a warning that we are not alone but in the company of a very shy cat, Swanson, who will never be seen.
Within her paintings, Liebegott constantly draws attention to invisible forces at play; God, capitalism, mortality, survival, anxiety, and unseen cats. Her work exposes the heartbreaking absurdity of postmodern life held together by sincere and simple pleasures.
The paintings often depict mundane objects, lovingly or at least obsessively, attended to: receipts, coke cans, cat trees, or the roses on the wallpaper of a room.
“I’m obsessed with hotel rooms, motel rooms, and just interior living spaces.” Liebegott explains. We look at a painting she made of the interior of Emily Dickinson’s room in Amherst, Mass. There is a coke can on the nightstand. “It’s not even deep; it’s just that I love Coke so much.”
According to Feminist theorist Marilyn Frye, paying attention to that which is supposed to be in the background is a lesbian form of attention. It is a form of resisting the reality imposed on us by a phallocratic society, with “a mere flick of the eye.” (The Politics of Reality, 1983.)
Beside the Dickinson room hangs a painting of a hand stirring matzo ball soup, surrounded by saltines, a Katz deli menu, and a budget scribbled on a napkin peeking out of the corner. The ubiquitous private accounting of someone just scraping by. This painting is part of an intended series called, “Lesbian Still Lives.”
Liebegott pronounces this title as rhyming with ‘hives,’ but a chuckle betrays the double meaning of the written title. The Lesbian as an endangered or unpopular species. Scraping by. Existing. Yes folks, the “lesbian still lives.” It’s funny and sad and highlights the theme of surviving that Liebegott mentions in relation to her “Congratulations” series.
Each of the Congratulations paintings feature a figure that looks like Liebegott sitting at a table with a checkered tablecloth and a banner behind that reads, “Congratulations on being a Big Dyke,” “Congratulations on Your Abortion,” “Congratulations on Your Female Hysteria,” or “Congrats, You’re finally dead!”
The series names tribulations we endure as females or dykes or humans. The subject is both the butt of the joke, as well as the celebrated individual, simultaneously.
In “Marry Me, Mr. Met,” a streaker (presumably the artist) runs onto the METS field to propose to Mr. Met, the team’s oversized baseball-headed mascot. “Mr. Met is just my hero.” Liebegot gushes. “He’s thinking, ‘No! Get away from me, crazy lesbian.” The streaker is chased by an old-fashioned cop with a billy club, so faithfully rendered that I can almost hear the cry of his whistle. Behind the action, but in front of the orange and blue-clad crowd, banners hang in the outfield advertising well-known corporate sponsors such as Geiko, Bank of America, God, Feral Lesbianism, and the ever-present Liebegottian favorite, Coke.
I ask if painting is her meditation practice. She says she paints because she needs a time of day in the non-verbal, a time of the day just for herself. Liebegott’s paintings do remind us to come back to ourselves. To spend time with the objects that matter to each of us personally, no matter how absurd or mundane. To celebrate the fact of our persistent existing. Congratulations. “Coke, it is!”
DOGS AND DYKES
Saturday, July 27, 2019, 7:00 PM 10:00 PM
Junior High Los Angeles 5656 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028