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 RISD showcases the work of 120 masters students at the Convention Center
By GREG COOK  |  May 23, 2007
FEMININITY, FEMINISM, AND FASHION: Rachelle Beaudoin’s Cheer!Shorts.

It’s graduation season again. And at Rhode Island School of Design this means an art show where you can indulge your nosey, snarky self and see what bang results from all those college loan bucks. The 120 masters students featured in RISD’s “Annual Graduate Thesis Exhibition” at the Rhode Island Convention Center provide a peek inside one of the preeminent institutions in Providence, the national art scene as well, and maybe a crystal ball glimpse of where the art world is headed.
Shows like this are, by their nature, big messy buffets. The best work this year examines female issues. Rachelle Beaudoin presents funny-smart snapshots showing her wandering local streets and Providence Place mall wearing Cheer!Shorts with slogans printed on the butt. You’ve seen ladies wearing shorts with some saucy adjective (“juicy,” “luscious”) on their behinds. Beaudoin pushes this sexual signaling further with her ass poetry: “Pussylicious” and “Totally Waxed.” It’s righteous when she wears pink “Unusually Wet Pussy” shorts while checking out the Victoria’s Secret window. It’s surreal when she wears them while browsing the refrigerator section of a convenience store. And it’s giggly and uncomfortable when she wears “Cock Sucking Queen” shorts waiting for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in front of a mother with two boys. Cheer!Shorts evolved from a classroom performance last fall, and it’s better and more charged by moving into public with her disconcerting questions about feminity, feminism, and the differences between our fashions and the way, say, female chimps’ butts turn pink when they’re in the mood for love.
CIRCLE GAME: Christopher Robbins’s There Was a Man Who Built a Tree, Just So He Could Chop It Down.

Millee Tibbs Photoshops portraits of herself into snapshots of herself when she was a little girl. In then-and-now pictures, she lays on the floor with other kids in what looks like a classroom, talks on the phone in a kitchen, and poses with a dog. Things get wicked weird and interesting when she reenacts nude pictures. A little kid naked and mugging in a sudsy tub is cute, but a grown woman in the same pose is something else altogether. Paired, these images speak about girlhood versus womanhood, about childhood sexuality, and about society’s infantilization of womanly sexuality.
What else are RISD grad students thinking about? Nothing here really addresses our current wars or government leadership or global warming, but there are several creepy examples of body art — eyelashes stuck to a wood plank, nail-studded broaches for self-mutilation, necklaces made of blood and hair.
Shaun Bullens’s Satibo is a tall white box with stairs up the side. Climb to the top, look inside a wishing well, and below you see a little rocking chair in a wood-paneled cell facing a faux brick wall. In his brief slapstick video Chair, a man sits on a chair that immediately collapses underneath him. Stool is a video of a guy hurling stools that shatter against a studio wall; a heap of ceramic rubble from the chair and stools sits on the gallery floor. I’m not sure what this all adds up to yet, but I’m curious to see more.

FRESH AND FUN: Katherine Elliott’s Wallpaper Chair.
Christopher Robbins presents documentation and relics of a row boat he made from the top of a horse trailer and a tree he sculpted from stacked plywood, chopped down, and then turned back into a sheet of plywood. He has a witty way with materials, but the works might benefit from the concepts being a bit less neat. Bokyung Jun sets up 15 ceramic bowls on wooden stands. Little hammers — perhaps triggered by motion-detectors — strike the rims. It sounds like the plinking of raindrops.
Elliott Brennan screens a video about a jewelry heist, with talking-heads discussing whether a friend could be the culprit. A second video features a  woman who claims to have photographed a ghost. Brennan’s editing is awkward and the stories aren’t quite ripe, but he spins catchy mysteries.
The painting and printmaking here are mostly dull. What about design? There are slick professional dresses, posters, commercials, and architectural plans. Raquel Berrios Seaton’s orange vinyl tapestry makes the wall behind it glow orange with a simple but magical trick of reflected light. Andrea Springer’s woven benches seduce with their curvy birds eye maple. And Katherine Elliott’s “Wallpaper Chair” is fresh and fun.
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Rachelle Beaudoin , Rhode Island School of Design , Katherine Elliott ,  More more >
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