SRO Don Doe Sculptures

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Don Doe at Talking Pictures

On April 28 I went to an event called Talking Pictures at the gallery space at 106 Van Buren Street in Bed-Stuy. The gallery owners periodically put on small shows and then have a session in which people are invited to talk about the works. I went to see and talk about six sculptures by Don Doe, the owner of the SRO Gallery on Dean Street. I arrived a bit late, so I didn't get to look at the sculptures as carefully as I might have, and I missed the opening on April 26. However, the talk by those attending was illuminating, and we periodically got to stand up and look more carefully The format of the talk was to choose one's least favorite work and the most favorite and explain one's choices.

The sculptures were numbered one to six. The first was called “Spider.” As with most of the sculptures, it had two levels. The upper level showed the upper half of a woman whom everyone agreed looked “dignified;” the lower was made up of lots of legs. I noticed a prominent thigh, two legs both with high heels on the feet, and an artificial leg stretching out straight. It was only when we got to talking about classical sculpture and Greek Mythology that my ideas formed. A spider sets a trap; the dignified woman is being deceptive – she is seemingly intelligent and civil. However, she wants to trap someone with her sexy legs. To me, she is a “femme fatale” like the Syrenes or Kalypso in “The Odyssey” trying to ensnare her victim or even kill him.

The second sculpture is called “The Bathers.” The double nature here is that the top of the bathers is pink and the bottom is blue. A man pointed out that these are the colors of the male and female, and the bright colors suggest sexual stimulation. Close inspection revealed that the bathers are virtually one person with a penis here, breast there, and testicles nearby. The mixture of sexes might invoke the tales in Ovid's “Metamorphosis.” Doe is interested in how sexual feelings can combine the sexes or combine animals and humans as happened in “The Spider.”

In “To the Right” there is another combined creature made of a man and a woman. The man is underneath apparently in the throes of sexual pleasure; the woman above, who is continuous with him, seems to start out as his opposite partner in sex. Her prominent buttocks suggest she is a full participant, but then she rises above him, wearing a dress, and her head has slipped onto her shoulder; she is wearing glasses and staring off to the viewer's right at something very interesting which is far away. This sculpture got the most attention from the talkers and the most “best in show” votes for suggesting something about sex and human psychology, that sex does focus one with its strong feelings, but it never quite suppresses other feelings, in this case that there might be something more interesting elsewhere. I linked this sculpture with Helen of Troy, a beautiful woman seemingly made for sex, but also someone prone to losing interest. Married to Menelaos but happy to run off with Paris and then return to Menelaos and able to give Telemachus a thrill when he comes searching for his father in “The Odyssey.”

The fourth sculpture was called “Before the Moon Draws Back.” The underside is a woman and a horse who have fused together, and the upper part is made up of two women involved in a passionate embrace, one biting the other's breasts, and her lover portrayed with her head thrown back in pleasure. Doe told me later that he is fascinated by centaurs often portraying them in modern mode as bikers with bikes. A human attached to something powerful, giving a charge of sexual power, is a common idea. Of course centaurs in mythology were men and horses, but Doe is surely right to point out that the relationship could be otherwise. One thinks of the common obsession girls or young women often have with horses and the satisfaction they get in directing a large powerful animal around between their legs. Also the mention of the Moon seems important. The scene presented is sub-lunar, meaning the participants are lunatics waiting for sanity to return with its vague memories. Several people expressed aversion to Surrealism because of its imagery related to women, but a lot of Surrealism was based on the poetry of dreams, and I don't think anyone would exclude this piece, and as Cecilia, Don's wife, pointed out, this piece conveys great joy. Surrealism is what Surrealists do.

A fifth sculpture is of a man dissociated from himself. The piece seems to make fun of the idea that a man can be an empty coat. In this case the man has separated himself from the coat. His expression is somewhat empty, like the spider and the woman looking to the right, but he is invading the coat for some kind of perverse pleasure. Do the clothes make the man? Here the man seems to be making the clothes.

The last sculpture is an image of an orgy, again divided in two. Underneath is a man/woman playing the guitar. Their music seems to fuel the two women passionately involved above them. Besides the touch of the sexual encounter, the piece also involves the sound of the music, the taste of the fruit one of the women seems to be feeding to the other, the sight each has of the other enhanced by passion, and presumably the smell of sweat and other liquids as the women go at it. The orgy is also an orgy of the five senses.

The show is all work by Doe, but the pieces have been selected by the curator Cathy Nan Quinlan. Doe told me that she picked out the most “baroque” of the large number of sculptures she had to chose from. One hopes that some day there will be a show within a space where a far greater number of works could be shown so that one might get a fuller sense of Doe's fascinating art.

– John DeWind

Jonathan Judge