Artist: Rhiannon Aarons
Exhibition: Rabbit Hole
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Max L. Gatov Gallery West
About the Artist
Since the age of 14 Rhiannon has displayed the tendency to want to dominate. But in this prepubescent state, it was not at all sexual, but rather behavioral. This tends to be the age, Rhiannon explains, in which most women living as dominatrix’s now start to see the switch to this alternative lifestyle. Rhiannon has been living as a closeted dominatrix up until more recently. She says that it is rather freeing making it known that she is in fact a dominatrix because now she can stop hiding and start incorporating this lifestyle into her art. And this is exactly what she did with this exhibit.
Rhiannon’s recreation of John Tenniel’s original Alice drawings is impeccable. The story told with each piece is also rather unique. I kind of wish I would have been able to see the performance that went along with this exhibit, because the remnants left were intriguing. Each prop seemed to tie in to the central theme of Alice, and it would have been interesting to see how the performance played out (especially after hearing what the performance was). An agreement from said performance was written on the back of one of the prints, which intrigued me, so I asked Rhiannon to provide some clarity. This was a way of monetizing and preserving a performance, because you can’t sell a performance. This idea is interesting and so true. When one goes to a concert you cannot buy and relive that experience, but you can buy t shirts and whatnot to commemorate such an event. So this idea seemed so fresh to me, but it was mainly the ideas of preserving a moment that intrigued me.
Rhiannon choses the character of Alice from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland as a sort of avatar for her own identity. But Alice is not used in the same sense in which she is often used, in regard to drugs, hippies, and LSD. Alice is used here for more personal reasons. Rhiannon has always looked to Alice as this renegade figure, with her story having many ties to feminism and the female struggle. She talked of a rather interesting reading of Alice actually being a phallic symbol due to that fact that her body is ever growing and shrinking. Alice exists in this middle ground of innocence and naïveté, and has become an avatar for Rhiannon. She can tell her own story through the guise of Lewis Carroll’s creation.
What interested me the most is that her exhibit exists in the middle ground between art and BDSM, but yet on its own this exhibit is not at all to explicit (excluding the performance that went along with it). It is rather remarkable that Rhiannon can talk of such a practice as BDSM through the naivety of Alice. This exhibit was one of my favorites of the year and I’m glad I signed the waiver and showed my ID to get in.
I always had a strange attraction to the story of Alice in Wonderland, and this was why I was rather interested in this exhibit. I have to think upon why I like the story so, because it is not due to its implications with drug/hippie culture or to the meaning Rhiannon has placed upon it. I think I may just enjoy the stories absurdity, or maybe the pure fantastical elements and how this story could easily happen to anyone, you just have to find the right rabbit hole.
When talking to Rhiannon I also tried (haphazardly) to introduce the ideas of the feminist essay “The Hooker” by Ellen Strong. In this essay, Strong talks of female liberation during the time she was a prostitute. She feels that is more liberating to in fact be a prostitute. I tried to equate this idea of sexual liberation to the ideas of Rhiannon and BDSM. I think the idea is interesting, but I guess what is more fitting is the idea of owning what you are, and this is an idea that is universal.