Cheryl Donegan

By Schorr, Collier | Artforum International, Summer 1993 | Go to article overview

Cheryl Donegan


Schorr, Collier, Artforum International


The pitcher fingers the brim of his cap, he brushes dust from his brow. His cleats grind into the mound, he plants himself solidly into that little hill. The batter, the one in red with a thick plastic cap on, shifts, a thousand times checking his grip. The runner also in red inches away from the canvas bag on first, a teasing dance full of bravado. The pitcher winds up his arm, the batter poises to swing, the man on first throws his body toward second. In an instant the batter pauses and the pitcher pivots. The runner is nailed at second. The execution of the perfect fake.

Her slick, seallike head moves in a stretch, the woman in this tape, smooth as shrink-wrapped plastic. When I first saw Head I had only one thought: I thought this girl must be one hell of a ride. That was what the tape asked for, it seemed to instigate or invite this kind of bravado, these pumped-up visions of domination and sexual slavery. If Cheryl Donegan were in a cartoon the bubble might read, "If I had a woman like that. . . ." And the response might be, "You couldn't handle her." As in the all-too-tasty movie Basic Instinct, a woman with that much appetite, with the ability to enjoy sex on a par with the fictive lust of men, is dangerous. How many times have men in books and movies said to one another, "A woman like that would kill you"?

The character Cheryl Donegan invents could easily be accused of the same. In Head Donegan studies what pleasure looks like. The piece is incredibly direct. A woman--the artist--approaches a green plastic bottle with a plugged spout sticking out from one side. She pulls the plug free, and a white milkish fluid begins to stream through the hole. The frame is filled with her head and upper torso, pert breasts bound in a leotard. Her dainty gloss-dipped lips part as she catches the liquid in her mouth, vertically lapping it up. Sometimes she spits or drools the stuff back into the open top, sometimes she swallows. After a time the flow begins to ebb; just a thin trickle is left. So she starts to suck at the hole, lick around it. Lick the bottle up and down. Who or what the bottle is, is open to one's own particular fantasy.

We've seen this before. We've seen women crouched waiting to receive. Head makes us confront our own pornographic histories--all those women we saw live on celluloid exhibiting insatiable hunger and receptiveness. …

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