Arts & Culture » Visual Art

Dark humor


Lisa Goedert, a classic Hitchcockian blonde, moves through her studio, the walls of which are covered in images — paintings, photographs, collages — as she talks about the latest direction in her work.

“Once upon a time, I read this wonderful article which said that when you’re an artist you should do what nags you. And that got me thinking, ‘Well, what recently has been nagging me?’ And of course it has to do with me being in my 30s and not having children, and just having cats, and one day being possibly an old cat lady.”

Since she graduated from Wayne State University’s art department in 1994, Goedert has been making photographs, primarily in black-and-white, which have a strong aura of surrealism. As if daring herself to play with elements of fear and the uncanny, she has peeled away layer after protective layer from around the discomfort that her images generate to arrive at a more painful knot of essentials.

Recently, Goedert started using PhotoShop on the images on her computer, and the colorful results are both painterly and photographic, and come from what nags her and drives her to express it.

The cat lady in the photo collage (above) looks out from the eye of a hurricane of torment, as visions of baby dolls dance in her head; they don’t look like her at all, so they can’t be hers. The cat-lady figure has always been, of course, both glamorous and horrific — like the beautiful Simone Simon character in Cat People, Jacques Tourneur’s 1942 classic of eroto-horror. Goedert’s creation is wearing lipstick and earrings, but within the seductive mascara around her eyes are vertical cat pupils. And we won’t even think about the black on top of her head (it’s not a hat).

Then, in an almost innocent-looking collage that combines elements of both Max Ernst and René Magritte, the rainfall is a black hail of bombs and the large flowers are blossoming explosions. Again, innocence and the natural world reveal their sinister underbellies.

Goedert, who sings with folk-rockers the Luddites and often turns her political commitments into activism, seems to be unpacking a load of pessimism (if not world-weariness) in these works. But art is such an elegant vehicle for the repressed that we can use color and montage to express facets of reality that we would otherwise turn away from. It’s precisely this courage, this ability to juxtapose form and revulsion, humor and pain, which Goedert so forcefully possesses.

George Tysh is the Metro Times arts editor. E-mail him at

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