Kerri Scharlin: Diary; Wooster Gardens, New York, New York
Kerri Scharlin's work in the recent past has dealt with the manipulation of identity, mostly her own. She has had police sketch artists render her image via friends' descriptions, courtroom artists execute her life in courtroom sketches, art students mold and sketch her naked form, been the subject of a coloring book relating the glamorous lifestyle of an artist unequal only to Barbie's awesome life, and been in an ambitious project where the artist had professional writers, photographers, designers, and art directors from nationally renowned magazines create profiles of Kerri Scharlin in the style and form of their magazines. These blown up layouts filled the gallery space with Scharlin letting the media expose her in various aspects of her life, all the while under Scharlin's careful editing of her self portrayal.
In "Diary," Scharlin is once again exploring self-portrayal. Here Scharlin has asked a range of television writers to write five minute scripts based on her diary in styles that reflect their show's genres. Writers from The Simpsons, NYPD Blue, Caroline in the City, One Life to Live, Beavis and Butt-head, thirtysomething and My So-Called Life participated in her project. From these scripts storyboards were created, blown up and displayed. By choosing a range of television genres, Scharlin demonstrates many of the different points of views found on television and how one person's story can be related in so many different manners and styles. In an adjoining installation, Scharlin concurrently displays video projections of actresses auditioning for the Kerri role in Diary, a made-for-television special in development. Apparently, the special will be eventually produced in the style and with the production values of the television shows upon which they were modeled.
The material that the writers took advantage of in Scharlin's diary mainly consisted of: a trip to Los Angeles to the Playboy mansion in which Scharlin meets the legendary Playboy Hugh Hefner, his wife Kimberly and various other Playmates and celebrities; some not so nice thoughts about a former sleazy art dealer type; and her relationship with her husband Peter. My favorite was the NYPD Blue storyboard, script by Gardner Stern. In it a pissed-off Kerri Scharlin is trying to get her share of the money she made from previous art sales. Her sleazy art dealer (who does seem to resemble a certain art dealer Scharlin had a professional relationship with in the past) tries his best to put off Scharlin, but eventually leads her to a crime-ridden neighborhood with the promise of a payoff from an unsavory character. After collecting the money, he and Scharlin make a quick exit in which Scharlin's dealer is eradicated from the script when he is run over by a car. Scharlin leaves him for dead, takes the money and then breaks the "unfortunate" news to the art world. I am sure this is a scenario dreamed up by many artists. The whole storyboard almost managed to convey how scummy the art world can be.
Another storyboard of note was the script modeled after The Simpsons. In Matt Groening cartoon-like images, Ken Keeler wrote a script about Scharlin's visit to the Playboy mansion. Here we see Scharlin hard at work trying to convince Hugh, his wife Kimberly, and various Playmates and celebrities to participate in her project and have them just color in her coloring book. After much rejection and misunderstanding of her work from the Playboy crowd, Scharlin finally manages to beg Johnny Depp to scribble on a page. This, of course, is sold for a ridiculous amount at her former gallery. Keeler wrote a humorous script that indicates how a person with reasonable intelligence and wit views an unorthodox art world and a project of Scharlin's nature.
The only thing the actresses auditioning for the Kerri role in Diary had in common was brown hair. Every actress gave a different impression of who Kerri is or can be. Scharlin claims that she wants her work to raise questions about identity and how the media can manipulate an image, yet she's not interested in providing answers. How many times can the same question be asked? While browsing through the exhibition, I was even coming up with sequels for future exhibitions. Kerri in a CD-ROM, Kerri as a clone, Kerri as fill in the blank. I must admit I was thoroughly engaged when viewing the exhibition. I found "Diary" to have more humor than previous Scharlin shows. Maybe Scharlin trusted the talent and sense of her collaborators to make her more human and three dimensional. However, the most ironic statement to me about Scharlin's life and identity is an event that happened recently to the artist--Kerri as mother. In what is surely the most prolific collaboration with her husband Peter, Kerri is now the mother of a beautiful baby daughter, who, as she observed, is the spitting image of (you guessed it) Peter. Mother Nature always has final editing rights.
New York, New York