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Arts & Culture

'Six Trick Pony: UCF MFA Show'

In capitalism's twilight, six artists ask the question: What comes next?

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Noura Shuqair, an artist from Saudi Arabia, brings her own perspective from the Middle East's treatment of women. Islamic filigreed pattern-making gives way to stark, contrasting portraits: between white-garbed men and black-covered women; between women in hijab (head-scarf) and women clothed in Western fashion. Shuqair's exposé of the edges of cultural taboo culminates in a private booth labeled "For Women Only," inside which a self-portrait without the hijab may be found. (I peeked.)

Melissa Bush, right here in America, exposes some behavior just as abusive in her photography and crochet work. Traditionally a woman's craft, crochet oddly recalls the complex, fine geometrics referenced in Shuqair's work. Painstakingly woven into Bush's crocheted pieces is a story of abuse at the hands of her parents and aunt – abuses of all kinds, the text horrifyingly contrasting with the soft, maternal fabric flowing over a rocking chair and highlighted in frames.

Breaking stereotype also is Chad Burton Johnson, depicting Southern macho iconography in the glitter and sequins beloved by Southern redneck women. Daisy Dukes and other icons are lovingly crafted, folk-art-style, into huge, glistening panels. This celebration of that most masculine (if childish) of shows, The Dukes of Hazzard, reinterpreted in the material of a sequined Walmart T-shirt, completes this show's exploration of our culture's great unwashed.

While the 1 percenters party down on Wall Street, the rest of us are left to stare at each other and wonder: What comes next? This show's social commentary suggests a descent into mass-produced cultural cannibalism, as we turn to the emptiness of our middle-class existence to find meaning and identity. Contemporary war heroes, parents, authority figures and institutions are turned on their heads, and these MFA candidates are the harbingers of our new social dysfunction.

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