Actor: Christina Tarbell
Filming & Production Assistance: Jimi Billingsley, Alexis Callender and Teddy Maki
Carla Gannis’s 5 screen video installation is part cultural anthropology and part dream-scape surrealism. Her “Jezebels” are set within fragmentary layered interiors, where past and present worlds collide. Ornate rooms, church sanctuaries and institutional green hospitals are “wallpapered” with urban graffiti and detritus. Jezebel is a woman caught between realities, existing in the future, present and past simultaneously.
Approaching the work as a three dimensional moving painting, Gannis’ Jezebel intimates the mythology, history, and stereotypes that shape and define femininity within our collective unconscious. This icon is not one woman, but many, ranging from a villain to a non-conformist to a superwoman of human empowerment. The color red as a signifier of lust, sexuality, wantonness, as well as revolution, anger, and courage; we see this color wrapping not only the figure but her words.
Gannis, a native of the Southern United States, was first inspired by the 1938 film in which an outspoken 19th century Southern belle — played by the actress Bette Davis — is ostracized and labeled a “Jezebel” for a wearing a red dress, instead of a “virginal” white dress, to a formal ball. From this character, the artist researched the more universal interpretations and contradictions that surround the avatar Jezebel.
In a reference to cinema and painting, Gannis provides five mise en scènes that give context to Jezebel’s historic and cultural currency. She has collected numerous texts and woven them together into visual and textual personifications. Her five representations include:
Jezebel CHRISTINA: the woman who actually plays Jezebel in this work, as herself, a real woman, who contends with personal identity politics
Jezebel BETTE: where monologue is taken from the original “coquettish” Bette Davis performance
Jezebel THE PREACHER : based on the age-old representation of Jezebel as a pagan temptress (contemporary religious leaders still refer to “Jezebel” as an entity that is threatening in these texts)
Jezebel THE RAP: where misogynistic lyrics and a sexualized Jezebel are inverted, and where language in regards to female sublimation explains much of Jezebel’s villainy
Jezebel PIAF: based on singer Edith Piaf’s loving tribute to Jezebel, including texts that address darkness and religious antithesis