Jaime Bull: Rhinestone Cowgirls [Review]





By Brianna Bass

Jaime Bull’s solo exhibition Rhinestone Cowgirls opened at Atlanta’s Whitespec (part of Whitespace Gallery) in mid-February. A lone painting welcomes visitors into the gallery, setting a gestural, forward atmosphere. A brilliant pink sky, bright green cacti, sparkly gold sand, and a sloppy coat of gloss melt into a dreamy, disjointed desert sunset. Viewers then turn the corner to a spectacle of shimmering girliness and grit.

Jaime Bull’s Rhinestone Cowgirls at Whitespec, 2019.

Eight figures sit in an array of attitudes atop their “trusty steeds,” moseying across desert sands (bare brick and yellow shag rug) into the sunset. The figures are cowgirls, clad in leotards and disassembled gowns. They are grocery bags and foam stuffed into spandex and sequins, riding plastic furniture and barstools which bear long tinsel tails. Horse and rider are frankensteined together with a wonderfully lush, clumsy grace. Dolly Parton’s voice warbles softly from the back corner like a whisper on the wind. “I’m gonna be where the lights are shining on me, like a rhinestone cowgirl…” drifts forward, urging our heroes onward, a cinematic nod to those mystic words of destiny which ride with the tumbleweeds on many a long, dry journey.

Jaime Bull’s Rhinestone Cowgirls at Whitespec, 2019.

Figuratively, Bull’s sculptures are close to human, yet so obviously far. They adamantly reveal their true identities; they are not flesh, but accumulated everyday materials and fancy thrift store finds. They are foam cinched with belts, stools wearing hats. They keep no secrets. Yet, it is a human urgency see ourselves in anthropoid figurative manifestations. It doesn’t take much detail to tell us where the head, chest, and legs are. By recognizing the human beneath these awkward forms, we receive more information and expressive language than is possible through realistic gestures. Movements are extra-dimensional, exaggerated, frozen in time, overlapping and multiplied, and their meanings are compounded thus. Our own forms are mirrored, and we read them with inherent empathy, feeling what they feel. They tell us of our struggles, what we are, and what we will become.

Rhinestone Cowgirls are visually bombastic, exhibiting no demure acquiescence to modesty. They are at times awkward, or wild, or strikingly regal. Cowgirl Daphne sits erect, gracefully dressed in emerald green and royal blue, while Dana Dawn lies in full repose, embracing the sunset thighs-first. The general concept of a cowgirl houses a huge array of images at once. One of those is the fetishized cowgirl. From sex positions to caricatures, this “cowgirl” trope mainly exists in pop culture to ride things and to be desirable. These prerequisites are likely low on the list for an occupational cowgirl, for whom daily experience requires independence, strength and hard work. Bull’s figures seem to strike out against this forced dichotomy. They maintain their sexuality and sexual power, right alongside their maturity and strength. Many playful details in the installation are a testament to the openness and humor which Jaime Bull seems to hold as a sacred tenant of feminine energy.

Jaime Bull’s Rhinestone Cowgirls at Whitespec, 2019.

The beckoning function of Bull’s work is evident in the overall flashiness of the installation. Abundant sparkly materials at first seem to indicate pure girlishness, yet they serve another broader function. Beveled glass rhinestones and mirrored sequins bend, break, and refract light, as if it were passing through water. If Rhinestone Cowgirls’ setting was real as depicted, the sequined dresses & tinsel tails too would shimmer like water in the setting sun. Beads of light would cascade off their ramshackle raiment and shatter over the sand like rain. In the distance they might appear as both beacon and mirage, awakening a need to follow, to see what lies ahead. The juxtaposition of these themes, lushness in an expanse of dryness, gives this small procession an elevated purpose. Through humor and happiness, it lingers in the mind and leaves the viewer thirsty to experience more.

Jaime Bull: Rhinestone Cowgirls
February 15, 2019 - March 23, 2019

Whitespec (at Whitespace Gallery)
814 Edgewood Ave
Atlanta, GA 30307

More on Jaime Bull

& Whitespace Gallery/Whitespec: