Close up photo shows a chain of crystals lined along the wooden baseboard of the gallery.
Andrew Sokol’s crystal chain loops along the gallery’s baseboards. Credit: Courtesy Ruschwoman

As the womxn of Ruschwoman gallery are much smarter than I, I could not tell you what the “game of pearls” entails in the gallery’s current show: “The Game of Pearls, Prune de Madame, and Other Phantasia (As Confided to the Rusch Womxn).” However, for an exhibition as intricately laced as this one—featuring art as varied as bespoke millinery and fragrance, amongst images of sirens lusciously rendered in oils—I can only imagine the game as something new and old, decadent and severe, a source of pleasure and pain.

Like the bygone sovereignty of the aristocrat and the flaneur, figures acknowledged in the show’s epigraphic notes, “Game of Pearls” overflows with polymorphic referents and symbols. From artist Nicolette Mishkan’s aforementioned merfolk to Andrew Sokol’s crystal chain looping along the space’s baseboards, the queer signifiers “Game of Pearls” plays with are those borne of the people categorized as excess and liminal by a violent state’s mechanisms of control. This is not to assert that Ruschwoman champions the money and privilege needed to engage in the decadence of the aristocrat, but rather that they call for such pleasure and romanticism to return to the hands of pleasure’s creators, its keepers, its lovers, its first true prophets and followers: the same people deemed other, those marginalized under a punishing, structural gaze. 

Nicolette Mishkan lusciously renders sirens in a series of oil paintings.
Courtesy Ruschwoman

As the exhibition’s titular Mrs. Plum, Prune de Madame could be a gesture to a Parisian interior design house, novelist Pierre Loti’s 1905 exoticized account of a visit to Japan, both, or neither, there’s the possibility that the game of pearls is one of obfuscation. Here another word for obfuscation is survival, and all the aching bliss such a game entails. 

“The Game of Pearls, Prune de Madame, and Other Phantasia (As Confided to the Rusch Womxn)”
Through 6/25: by appointment,, 2100 S. Marshall, Unit 105,

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