THE BELIZE TIMES The Juggernaut Beguiles Belize
Review by Andrew Steinhauer July 8th, 2006
“Juggernaut: a massive inexorable force, campaign, movement, or object that crushes whatever is in its path”- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
“Chutzpah: gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible 'guts,' presumption plus arrogance”- Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish.
Fasten your seat belts, the Juggernaut di cum!
The Belizean Juggernaut is part painter, part poet, part essayist, part TV icon, part outspoken feminist, part photographer, part book publisher and part sex-pot.
The Belizean Juggernaut is… the one… the only… the inimitable Angela Gegg.
Last week Angela Gegg was ubiquitous. Her flowing golden locks provocatively covering strategic portions of her quasi-nude photos adorned a banner across North Front Street. Her full color posters hung in shop windows and outside restaurants. Her book of poetry, “The Light, The Dark, And Everything In Between” was launched at a mighty media hoopla event which got extensive coverage on the nightly TV and radio news. She made the talk show circuit, chatting up her book on WAVE one morning and KREM (both radio and TV) the next. And Belize’s perky Juggernaut climaxed her hectic week of activities with the opening of her exhibit, sassily titled “Hottt Chicks Can Paint Too” at the newly renovated, classy Image Factory Gallery with none other than the Prime Minister of Belize, Said Musa giving the Opening Remarks along with dramatic readings of a selection of her verse. The girl has energy and pizzazz galore.
Angela Gegg, art impresario, publishing magnate and juggernaut extraordinaire is a first for Belize. The gal has undiluted chutzpah running through her veins. As a sociological-cultural phenomena Ms. Gegg is a force to reckon with. She defies classification and skewers all the usual references. In art historical terms Ms. Gegg is the reincarnation of Andy Warhol. She shares the same quirky sensibility, the same expansive repertoire of skills and even Warhol’s contradictory outlook: half cynical and half schmaltz.
Warhol in his own non-linear logic way would refer to the "Art Business" and the "Business Art". The emphasis on ‘business’ and not ‘art’. For Warhol business was the most significant kind of art. Within Warhol’s cagey, loopy world the best artist was the best businessman. No more were artists’ non-conformist visionaries lurking in the shadows on the periphery of life, but movers and shakers in the thick of the action. A radical change in perspective: individualism was out; professionalism and business acumen were in.
Angela Gegg- the Belizean Juggernaut, in more than a few ways carries on Warhol’s tradition of “art as business”. And by the way Angela is quite a successful businesswomen. Check out how Angela slyly, effortlessly dovetails her art interests into her business interests.
Television: Ms. Gegg’s trailblazing TV series “Cooking with the Smoky Mermaid” became a camp classic. “Cooking” was one of fledgling LOVE TV’s first home grown shows. Ms. Gegg and LOVE TV both learned the video ropes, live on air. Fundamental mise-en-scène video traits like editing, lighting, camera movement, focus and precise sound were discovered in a trial and error method that was painfully humorous. Our spunky Juggernaut used non-professional actors in her culinary variety show so at times the star chef was somewhat wooden and decidedly camera shy. To compensate for her staffs’ lack of video presence Ms. Gegg would emote in grand style. The bizarre juxtaposition between shy chef and animated, devil-may-care hostess created an appealing, raw energy and a number of chuckles. LOVE’s video foibles were laid bare. When glittery gay pianist-Vegas entertainer Liberace was asked if it bothered him that he was the brunt of so many jokes, Liberace replied, “I laugh all the way to the bank.” Laughing all the way to the bank is the best revenge.
Thanks to Ms. Gegg’s physical attractiveness and vivacious video presence “Cooking” evolved into a cult favorite. Additionally her show gave LOVE TV some sorely needed legitimacy and a degree of professionalism not evident in their other programs. Business is the best art.
Unconfirmed rumor has it that media whiz, Jules Vasquez, has enticed Ms. Gegg to join his esteemed Channel 7 crew. Surely a coupling made in heaven.
Media Icon: Angela Gegg gives splendid, edgy interview. First off the camera loves her. The long, slightly disheveled blonde hair is a provocative icon in and of itself. Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your gorgeous hair, baby.
Icon locks, Goth make up and neo-vamp attire all add up to a striking visual. A visual that bewitches and beguiles. Then comes the throaty voice with its Fran Drescher (Nanny) nasal intonations. The beauty incongruously talks at times like a longshoreman. The amazing contrast between elegant visual façade and earthy, guttersnipe vocals instills her interviews with a wily, unexpected roots element.
In terms of entertainment Ms. Gegg’s interviews are loaded with verbal fireworks. They are spiced with quasi-rude expletives and fearless frankness. Her outspokenness knows no bounds. Her rap has a surreal, stream of consciousness to it. The topics are tied together in some extra-logical plane deep in her psyche. One Mystical Mama full of arcane mumbo jumbo. After her incredible media blitz earlier in the day I noticed her book was selling at a pretty good clip at the art show opening reception Friday night. The Gegg factor: business is the best art.
Poetry: Ms. Gegg’s slickly produced opus, “The Light, The Dark, And Everything In Between” is a quick read. The poems are divided into three sections: the first section is “the dark” which traverses some emotional minefields while delving into some taboo topics. Taboo stuff like penis envy, (If I Had a Penis) and pedophilia, (Tortured). The tone of ‘the dark’ is pessimistic, gloomy and angry.
The second section, “Everything In Between” still deals with raw emotion, though the intensity is mitigated by a subtle undercurrent of tolerance if not quite optimism. Again in this section Ms. Gegg confronts taboos head on: in “Fornication” she tackles unwanted pregnancy, masturbation fantasies and separation, while in “My Memoir Of Marsha” she describes a drug addled buddy snorting cocaine.
The third section- “The Light”- focuses on slightly more positive, slightly more touchy-feely topics. Still the general tone is more chip-on-shoulder insolent than honey-pie lovey-dovey. The girl’s got attitude. Even when she is ostensibly writing about lighthearted issues, the cynical edge hasn’t been dulled much.
The fourth and final section of the anthology deals with Ms. Gegg’s paintings. It’s called “Angela Gegg as Proshka the Artist”. It contains a potpourri of descriptive poems, reproductions of paintings and manipulated photos. The images are bright and brassy; spontaneous and intuitive.
Sixteenth century philosopher Rene Descartes divided man into two interrelated natures, a spiritual nature and a temporal nature; crudely put- the mind and the body. Ms. Gegg’s paintings and poetry are spawned primarily from her body, her temporal self. While her business acumen and media wizardry are more a product of her mind, her intellect.
Painting: Angela Gegg’s painting is all visceral, emotional responses to her life and dreams. It’s a netherworld of physicality painted with controlled abandon. The Juggernaut’s paintings generally fall into the three different visual styles that were in her exhibition of June 2004 titled “Subconscious Works of Art” at the Mexican Institute. She uses three different iconographic forms, though the overall mood is one of spontaneous angst.
One of those styles is reminiscent of the geometric distillation of the figure found in the Synthetic Cubist paintings of Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris and Georges Braque. In Gegg’s cubist-biomorphic surrealist paintings the image and the encompassing space are simplified to their basic, unembellished forms. In her modified cubist style Ms. Gegg juggles the anatomical forms and restructures them in non-logical, capricious ways. One critic called Marcel Duchamp’s cubist piece, “Nude Descending a Staircase” an “explosion in a shingle factory. In a totally non-derogatory manner Ms. Gegg’s cubist works are just plain explosive. They shatter conventional expectations and recreate reality in arbitrary ways. It’s Ms. Gegg’s theory of “body dismorphia” taken literally; the gap between self-image and truth is twisted out of shape.
Ms. Gegg’s second style is an aggressive variation on Gestural Abstraction. A style of painting where the canvas is viewed more or less as an arena for physical confrontation between the artist and his/her emotional demons. A confrontation where the soul is exposed in all its anguish. The paintings reflect the turbulent mood swings of the artist. Ms. Gegg’s gestural work carries on the tradition of artists like Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. Capturing raw emotion is the goal of gestural painting.
The third style in Ms. Gegg’s aesthetic repertoire juxtaposes two discrete types of paint handling layered one over the other. The lower layer is violently, aggressively non-figurative. She appears to attack the canvas in a wild, physical manner. Then very delicate, linear nudes are drawn over the residue of the gestural abstractions. The Juggernaut blends the physicality of emotionally overwrought brush strokes and elegant contour lines reminiscent of Hans Arp and Joan Miro at their lyrical best. She is a feminist Julian Schnabel; layering Descartes dualism in her recent work.
The dichotomy that underscores Angela Gegg’s works is just how profound it is in terms of business viability. Angela Gegg, the unstoppable force- the Juggernaut- has single handedly ushered in a new era of Belizean art- the art of pushing all the most provocative buttons, stirring up controversy, marketing sexuality and foremost- the art of making money. Business is the best art.