PUTNEY — The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center and Next Stage Arts Project present performance artist Karen Finley in a one-woman show, "Grabbing Pussy / Parts Known," at 8 p.m. Friday, August 2, at Next Stage Arts Project. Tickets are $20 in advance ($25 at the door) and may be purchased at brattleboromuseum.org, nextstagearts.org, or in person at BMAC.
In 1990, Finley and fellow performance artists Tim Miller, Holly Hughes, and John Fleck gained national notoriety as the "NEA Four," drawing the ire of then-Senator Jesse Helms and other conservative politicians for creating "indecent" art. Helms brandished a photograph of Finley, popularly known as "the chocolate-smeared woman," on the Senate floor. Finley and the other three artists sued the NEA for withdrawing grants on the grounds of indecency. "National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley" went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Finley's current show is based on her new book, "Grabbing Pussy" (OR Books, 2018) and is presented in connection with the BMAC exhibit "Dona Ann McAdams: Performative Acts," which features the "chocolate-smeared woman" photograph and images of other performance artists of the time. The performance will be followed by a Q&A with Finley, McAdams, and Obie- and Bessie-winning producer Lori E. Seid.
In "Grabbing Pussy," Finley offers poetry and prose that lays bare the psychosexual obsessions that have burst to the surface of today's American politics. Alternately funny and disturbing, Finley explores the Shakespearean dynamics that arise when libidos and loyalties clash in the public and private personas of Donald Trump, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner, Harvey Weinstein, and others. The aggression of intimacy, the disparity of gender, and the vital importance of hair are all expressed with Finley's raucous candor.
In "Parts Known," Finley responds to the separation of families at the border, the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, and the struggle and strength of "being a New Yorker [ ] the resistance of not being depressed and moving forward with the experience of activism of the past."
In addition to the famous image of Finley, "Dona Ann McAdams: Performative Acts" includes images of activist protests, nuns, people with schizophrenia, racetrack workers, and farm animals. The exhibit is on view at BMAC through September 23.
Located in historic Union Station, at the intersection of Main Street and Routes 119 and 142, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center presents rotating exhibits of contemporary art, complemented by lectures, artist talks, film screenings, and other public programs. Major support for BMAC is provided by its members and Allen Bros. Oil, Brattleboro Savings & Loan, C&S Wholesale Grocers, the Four Columns Inn, Sam's Outdoor Outfitters, and Whetstone Station Restaurant & Brewery. For more information, call 802-257-0124 or visit www.brattleboromuseum.org.