You enter a different world when you walk into the Marta Hewett Gallery. The exhibition is “Anima and Animus/Julia Oldham & Casey Riordan Millard.” To navigate it, I needed to understand what anima and animus meant, yet another example of my spotty education. Gallerist Marta Hewett helped me there.
In an October 21, 2017, email, Hewett wrote:
Carl Jung describes the anima and animus as elements of his theory of the collective unconscious, which transcends the personal psyche. In the unconscious of a man, this archetype, which exists as an idea common to all mankind, finds expression as a feminine inner personality: anima. In the unconscious of a woman, it is expressed as a masculine inner personality: animus.1
Despite the exhibition title, Hewett admits the focus is on animus. As for exploring anima don’t look here. As illustrators and storytellers, Oldham and Millard make women the lead characters in the short stories they tell in their representational works. (Each is represented by 20 works.) Oldham is fascinated with she wolves and the mythic she werewolves, and all of her scratchboard drawings and digital prints were done in 2017, making a coherent collection.
It’s quite a different case with Millard showing work dated from 1997 to 2016, which covers a range of subjects and styles, but it is her Shark Girl who stands out.
Let me start with Oldham who, frankly, is easier to discuss. Oldham asks, “Why Are There No Great Female Werewolves?” in her article posted on www.artsy.net on October 25, 2017. The artist points out that there is “a marked dearth of them (she werewolves) represented in literature and film.” 2 When she werewolves do appear, they are either hyper-sexualized humans or all wolf. There are practically no images of them transitioning.
In She-Wolf: A Cultural History of Female Werewolves, Hannah Priest’s writes that the she-wolf “ . . . frequently serves as a visceral and physical manifestation of a ‘bad girl’: disruptive, hypersexual, and homicidal . . .” 3 In other words, she’s revealing her xanimus.
Hewett writes, “As they dance, eat, and play, Oldham’s she-wolves struggle to find balance their wild natural instincts and the accepted behaviors of human society.” 4
That tension is most clearly seen in two black-and-white scratchboard works: Ladies’ Luncheon and She Wolves Potluck. In the first, the she werewolves are attired in simple dresses that reveal their hairy but still human arms, legs, and bare feet. They sit primly at round tables beneath an elegant crystal chandelier amid globe-shaped pendant lamps. The diners are sipping wine and, with two exceptions, daintily consuming their steaks with knives and forks. Those exceptions are tearing into their slabs of meat.
In She Wolves’ Potluck, their ferocious nature asserts itself as they viciously attack the carcass of a deer, having already picked it clean down to his ribs.
In counterpoint to Oldham’s graphic black-and-white scratchboard pieces, done in a style reminiscent of Rockwell Kent whose work she is aware of, hyperrealism takes over in color digital prints. Here voluptuous human female bodies are shown metamorphosing into werewolves.
In Werewolf in the Wildflowers, a titillating nude rolls in a field of daisies and buttercups beneath a picture-perfect blue sky with cumulous clouds floating by. Only her head has made the transformation into a wolf with a yawning mouth, revealing a full set of choppers.
Oldham hopes to see more female werewolves in pop culture. “That means more possibilities for women to reveal their inner and outer wolves—hair, teeth, and all—with pride,” 5 in a word animus.
Much of the attention Millard has garnered is for Shark Girl, a rather prissy little girl who wears a mask of a great white shark head. Inspired by the Victorian children’s book illustrator Kate Greenaway, the girl is usually dressed in a blue dress with a Peter Pan collar. It’s this part of Millard’s work that is the most intriguing to me; I wished there were more than four examples, dated 2004, 2013, 2015, and 2016, on view.
Millard explains the inspiration for Shark Girl:
When I was a kid, I had an irrational fear of sharks in swimming pools. So, when I started to try to work through my rational fears, it somehow calmed me to think it feels the same as the shark in the swimming pool and I know that’s not real and I was okay.” 6
Hewett sees Shark Girl as “a feminine response to the animus as described by Emma Jung,” and wrote, “What we women have to overcome in our relation to the animus is not pride but lack of self-confidence and the resistance of inertia. For us, it is not as though we had to demean ourselves, but as if we had to lift ourselves.” 7
Hewett points out that Shark Girl is “typically inert with an expression that never changes.” 8 The shark’s maw is open but its teeth are barely visible. The mouth is turned down, as if frowning. But we are seeing the face vertically, not as you would see a shark swimming in the sea In Shark Girl at Meeting, she sits quietly in a folding chair with her hands between her thighs and her knees together in a ladylike pose.
Opposite the Shark Girl is another little girl who wears a sleeveless blouse, shorts, and sandals. She’s covered her eyes with her hands, but is peeking through her fingers. There are no clues as to why they’re meeting. Millard leaves that up to the viewer.
But Shark Girl didn’t start out so compliant. She’s quite ferocious in the 2004 May Joy Be Around You. Dressed this time for battle in a dark shirt and skirt, she’s spoiling for a fight but in contrast, a border of Hallmarkian doves and overblown roses surrounds the scene. The sweet border recalls Victorian greeting cards, a perception that is reinforced because the title is spelled out on a strip of paper held by a disembodied hand.
What the border surrounds is Shark Girl advancing with single-minded resolve toward a bare-chested dog-faced boy. He hangs from a branch like a trapeze artist, appearing vulnerable, despite his own “ready-to-fight” expression. But his legs are bent, and he could swing them to knock down Shark Girl.
In this incarnation, Shark Girl is Jaws with the mask’s mouth opened so wide that it reveals her own ferocious visage. If there’s any doubt about her power, Shark Girl holds a limp bird in a clenched fist. She’s got the self-confidence and resistance to inertia that Frau Jung decried as lacking in women if they were to overcome in their relation to animus. 8
From the moment I entered the gallery, I felt these two artists didn’t belong together, a conclusion bolstered by the installation that mixed the pieces. Only Millard’s Blue Party Girl and its twin Pink Party Girl, which flanked Werewolf Birthday by Oldham, could make a case for their pairing.
My suggestion is that the visitor consider this two solos, not a two-person show. Then you can see a unified presentation of Oldham’s work, and Millard’s as a retrospective.
—Karen S. Chambers
“Anima & Animus Illustrated: Casey Riordan Millard & Julia Oldham,” Marta Hewett Gallery, 1310 Pendleton St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. 513-281-2780, [email protected]. Tues.-Friday, 10:00 am-5:00 pm; Sat., 11:00 am-3:00 pm.
1 Email from Marta Hewett to author, October 21, 2017.
2 Julia Oldham, “Why Are There No Great Female Werewolves?” www.artsy.net, October 25, 2017.
3 Hannah Priest, She-Wolf: A Cultural History of Female Werewolves. Reprint 2017, Manchester University Press.
4 “Anima and Animus Illustrated,” Marta Hewett Gallery, Cincinnati, press release, September 2017.
5 Oldham, op. cit.
6 Ashley Hirtzel, “How ‘Shark Girl’ came to be,” news.wbfo.org/how-shark-girl-came-be.
7 Email, op cit.