Visual Arts

Contain Yourself

Okay, ladies, what's your number one complaint about your man? He takes you for granted, right? I knew it.

But don't be so hard on him. It's human nature to take things for granted — and you do it all the time, too. Not necessarily when it comes to your loved ones, but with stupid stuff like socks, eyebrows, and other simple conveniences that make our lives less irritating. Tempe Public Library recently turned its attention to one of those often unnoticed perks with the art show "Containment."

Just imagine our lives without containment. There would be no way to keep animals from running wild through the city streets. Women would be forced to carry their purse guts by hand. And how the hell would I ever be able to bring spaghetti home from my mom's house again? Total anarchy.

The theme is great, so I was excited to see where the six local artists featured would take it. Unfortunately, most of what they churned out was disappointing.

But one artist made the trip to Tempe well worth it. Denise Yaghmourian completely blew me away with six fabulous pieces that I immediately fell in love with. I wish this had been a solo show.

Black Jellyfish Cubes is seven identically sized cubes horizontally affixed to the wall and covered in black, knitted yarn with knotted and tangled tendrils hanging from each one, lingering toward the floor. This piece caught my eye immediately and I was thrilled to then notice Zipped Cube — a cube covered in row upon row of zippers. The construction is clean and the chosen materials make it look as if minimalism met Jo-Ann Fabrics. This black cube with silver zipper stripes has a simplistic elegance that she carries through to a similar work, White Cube. Here, she covered a cube of identical size to the others with white fabric and rows of white eyes (the metal loop you find on a bra strap). Black thread is woven around each eye and pulled taut in criss-cross patterns. The delicate lines of black over the white fabric create a mesmerizing and beautiful pattern. Her meticulous work and incredible sewing skill is showcased. Needless to say, I was über-impressed.

My absolute favorite work by Yaghmourian is Label, Jumpsuits #1 through #11. Hanging from three wooden rods are doll-sized knitted jumpsuits, made from gleaming white, soft yarn. They look like doll's pants with suspenders and booties. They are absolutely stunning and have a cuteness to die for. But these little pants have some very important and somewhat cutting things to say. Each jumpsuit has a different word written across the crotch in black stitching. Words like listener, mother, artist, and pretender — obviously autobiographic. The endearingly gentle medium lends to an elegant expression of the stresses of the artist's life.

Yaghmourian's works are definitely the exception among a slew of lackluster pieces. Sandra Luehrsen's desert-inspired ceramic sculptures, for instance, are strange and uncomfortable. One vessel is basically a black geometric base with a large and gaudy desert flower blooming off the top. To be honest, it looks like something you might find at a rummage sale. But ceramics aside, her drawings definitely deserve due credit. The Corset Maker is a series of eight identical works. Here, Luehrsen cleverly chooses complicated and restricting underwear as her subject matter. The drawings depict a grid-like arrangement of girly colored corsets and crinolines (caged underskirt frames). Luehrsen displays a clean and delicate drawing style that is reminiscent of Andy Warhol's fashion drawings.

While Luehrsen manages to save herself, Leandro Soto has no such luck. Soto chooses cardboard boxes as his muse, creating diorama-like works by ripping out one side of a shipping box, sticking a bunch of random crap inside, and covering the hole with Plexiglas. Inside, are various objects: photos, sticks, feathers, broken mirrors — even a boot shows up in one of them. The exterior and interior of each box is splattered with clashing colors of paint. Perhaps cardboard boxes aren't the most inspiring containers out there because, visually, these look as messy as they sound.

It's tough to tell whether I was disappointed with the other artists because their work was truly poor or because they had the misfortune of having to share a room with Yaghmourian. Either way, the show is definitely worth a visit, if only to see cubes and pants.