Posted October 1, 2008 in

When one hears the word “diva,” images of six-foot-tall drag queens or Céline Dion may come to mind; VH1 certainly ruined the word for a few years with its insipid diva series showcasing any gal who could shatter a wine glass. Curator Thomas McGovern decided to embark on the diva quest nonetheless at the Robert V. Fullerton Art Museum, in an effort to redefine the term as “a passionate enthusiast [of either gender],” among other things. 

The resulting photographic exhibit therefore requires a huge leap of the imagination at times—while some photos stay mired in cliché (drag queens and Elvis), others seem so far removed from divaness that it’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Yet there are certainly some artists who took the diva mantra and ran with it (or at least found something in their stash that fit the mold in an unusual way). Keep on the lookout for Marissa Roth’s 1986 “Natalie Wood Gets a Posthumous Star on Hollywood Blvd.,” a black and white shot of the back of two men’s business trousers, with one of the men holding a vivacious photo of Wood that peeks out from the crowd, and Jen Cappuccio Maher’s “Dixie,” a digital print of an old woman (clearly still full of piss and vinegar) standing in her dumpy front yard of plastic lawn furniture and wrought iron gating wearing a boa and sequins gown. Other images, such as Steve Rubin’s “Laura Ann and Her Cousin,” in which a young gal bites and pulls on the arm skin of her male cousin in a ramshackle kitchen are exceptional, but don’t seem to cry out diva. That happens a lot in this show—but it shouldn’t dissuade you from checking it out. Diva or not, there’s some exceptionally nice work here. (Stacy Davies)


Divas: An Exhibition of Immodest Photography at Robert V. Fullerton Art Museum, 5500 University Pkwy., San Bernardino, (909) 537-7373; http://museum.csusb.edu. Tues.–Wed., 10AM–5PM; Thurs., 10AM–7PM; Fri.–Sat., 10AM–5PM. Opening reception Sat., 3–5PM. Through December 13. Free.


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