She’s an integral piece of American legend, her image tattooed in our minds: Jackie O., lady of fashion and grace with her pink skirt-suit and pill-box hat, as close to royalty as our country ever got.
In his exhibit currently on display in Green Hall, Ain Cocke ART ’04 tweaks that image of Jacqueline Kennedy, throwing the myth into uncomfortable confusion. Jackie lopsidedly grins out from Cocke’s portrait of her, Oswald’s rifle cradled in her arms with her finger playfully holding the trigger. She is both sinister and goofy — part cartoon, part nightmare.
Cocke’s homage to Jackie is just one of six engaging and eye-catching exhibits in Green Hall, where members of the Yale School of Art’s Painting Class of 2004 are displaying their thesis projects until April 11. The gallery in Green Hall, at 1156 Chapel St., is small and accessible, and the diverse combination of talented young artists’ work means the eye is never bored.
The standout of the collection is Cocke’s multimedia thesis, a sort of mock-museum display of various Jackie paraphernalia. The viewer is first greeted by a cardboard cutout of a mounted rifle labeled “This is Lee Harvey Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano Rifle.” A pink curtain surrounds the rest of the exhibit, and stepping through the pink curtain is like stepping into Jackie’s pink jacket. Inside the curtain, the viewer is greeted by the portrait of Jackie and the rifle. Three Plexiglas cases stand around it containing Jackie’s “Life Mask,” Jackie paper doll with rifle innocuously hidden among her outfits, and a series of postcards Jackie supposedly sent with flippant messages scrawled on the back.
Cocke said his thesis is about unraveling narratives, such as our cultural narrative of Jacqueline Kennedy.
“When someone approaches a piece, the authoring goes on in the viewer,” he said. “We all bring meaning to the painting. If you put a couple of freaky things around, we make a narrative around them.”
A television inside the pink curtain plays images of Jacqueline and President Kennedy descending from Air Force One at Dallas’ Love Field the day Kennedy was assassinated. Hidden among the images — Jackie in her pink suite accepting roses, shaking hands — the rifle can be found under her arm, as if it were a natural element of the history.
The thesis project of Katy Porte ART ’04 is another eye-gripping part of the Green Hall exhibit. Katy’s paintings are almost entirely of the bare back of women’s legs, the body cut off just above the waist. In one painting, the woman wears a sagging yellow slip, purple transparent underwear, a bright floral apron and red pumps on her feet. Porte’s work shows a preoccupation with patterns of fabric and other materials that clash loudly with the flesh of the legs and the other clothing on the figures. In several of her works, the pattern of the underwear as it sits just above or below the knees bleeds out into the background of the canvas and is stopped abruptly by the clashing pattern of the floor tiles. The legs seem particularly bare and grotesque when surrounded by such gaudy fabric.
Cocke and Porte’s theses are joined in the exhibit by the works of their classmates Linda Gallagher ART ’04, Taylor Absher ART ’04, Ted Mineo ART ’04 and Jonathan Syliva ART ’04.