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Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013

Claire Stigliani’s Dangerous World

The Bad and the Beautiful at Dean Jensen

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Take all of the good/bad girls you’ve encountered in the world—the barely ripe Lolitas, the wet-lipped runway models, the girl who trod on a loaf and, of course, the one who kissed a frog. Sprinkle with flocking and glitter and lace, and behold the world of Claire Stigliani. A female Henry Darger, her drawings and paintings in “Making Fictions” are equally dangerous and disturbing.

Bring it, Claire. One of your portraits of a child/woman encased in a pale blue bustier (her armor in a world filled with biases?) sits on my desk, purchased from the Portrait Society Gallery in 2009. The UW-Madison MA grad currently teaches at the University of Missouri in Columbia and is scattering the “Making Fictions” fairy dust now through March 2 at Dean Jensen Gallery (759 N. Water St.).

Clinging to the south wall of the main gallery are small unframed works on paper—“pages” from her world of celebrities who themselves dwell in a fairytale world: flame-haired Lucy, rail-thin Kate Moss, Dolly Parton, Jackie O, Robert Pattinson and others who define pop culture. My favorite is a weird and wonderful Snow White framed in garish faux gold. Tucked into the small back gallery, Stigliani’s Snow White looks shell-shocked, bug-eyed, and quite unlike the porcelain doll face from the world of Disney.

Dean Jensen has high hopes for Stigliani, whom he describes as a “breakout artist” on the edge of fame. The day I visited, Jensen, dapper in a grey sport coat and red scarf, led me through the exhibition, slyly scattering crumbs of information about his new book due out this spring. A long time champion of art that tells tales and an accomplished writer, he’s the perfect dealer for this young teller-of-tales artist who writes elegantly with pencil and paint.
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