You wouldn’t expect to walk into a show about sex and be most affected by a beet. Amid all the representations of pouty lips and perky breasts, there’s no reason that a root vegetable should speak so strongly to sexual identity. And conversely, in any other context—say, hanging in the kitchen of your mom’s sassy friend (probably near an oversized bottle of chardonnay and a sign reading “Dull women keep immaculate homes”)—the beet likely wouldn’t earn a second glance. But in a show that aims to explore the relationship between sex and commerce, this beet really hit me in the gut.
Entitled simply “Beet,” the small painting is part of Sex Sells at Jackson Junge Gallery. Like every work in the show, “Beet” is accompanied by a placard that offers an interpretation of the piece as it relates to the exhibition as a whole. I never really like when curators do this because, beyond feeling a little didactic, it tends to limit the scope of the work. Whoever it was that interpreted “Beet” reads it as an instance of the female body being overtaken by the products it represents. I suppose I could see that—Fiat’s American ad campaign has relied heavily on giving its product sexy, corporeal form—but I can’t think of many examples of women being exploited by the beet market. For me, there’s something in the physicality of the figure that speaks to something much larger than advertising. I see “Beet” as the dichotomy that is the modern female existence.