July 28, 2017

Wet Hot American Queen of the Damned at KO Gallery @ Hyperallergic

HAMTRAMCK, Mich. — Let’s take a moment to appreciate weird beauty, and Shaina Kasztelan’s celebration of it, in her wild, multimedia paintings. In the inaugural solo show of Hamtramck’s new KO Gallery — headquarters for the Heavenly Dogs art collective, of which Kasztelan is a member — this young artist presents her apocalyptic assemblages of female youth culture in a show with an appropriately mashed-up title, Wet Hot American Queen of the Damned.

Kasztelan’s aesthetic is a candy flip gone wrong; a Lisa Frank kitten that ate one too many Ring Pops and puked rainbows; or Marilyn Manson’s lingerie drawer. She deftly combines a metric ton of cheap commodities for girls, like stickers and plastic jewelry, into tight displays — offering startling, disturbing, and funny flashes of personal storytelling amid the nauseous and hallucinogenic whirl of suburban, mass-market femininity. Kasztelan gives each of her vignettes a story, with evocative titles like, “If I Shaved My Pussy,” “The Intergalactic Amoeba Goes Trick-or-Treating,” and “The Loneliest Gay Dolphin in the Universe.” What appears to be a formal arrangement of twin My Little Pony heads kissing atop a heart with a window revealing an interred ribcage is actually the anatomy of the relationship of “Two Spooky Bitches in Love.” The formerly gothic and self-pitying teenagers among us will instantly recognize snatches of NIN lyrics hand-stitched into samplers, or overt and visual references to psych medications and other pharmaceutical culture.

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