Students march in stilettos to open exhibit


By Nika Madyoon


Traversing lava fields, navigating the geothermal sites of Iceland and staggering through the sand in the extreme heat of Death Valley are all difficult tasks. Attempting them in red high heels is even more daunting.

When Upper School Visual Arts Department Head Cheri Gaulke created “Peep Totter Fly,” the installation she is currently showing as part of Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions’ “Los Angeles goes Live: Performance Art in Southern California, 1970-1983,” she wanted to convey just how impractical the high heel shoe really is. Upon entering the gallery, visitors are welcomed by a wall of red high heels from size five to size 16, which they may wear while viewing the artwork.

The exhibit, which ends Jan. 29, features a video in which people attempt to walk in natural environments while wearing the pair of heels.

“The point is to show how utterly impractical and out of nature they are,” Gaulke said.

Nick Lieberman ’11 was the assistant director of the video, which was edited by Gabe Benjamin ’11. Wiley Webb ’12 produced an original score for the production, which included natural and human sounds. The footage was shot throughout Los Angeles, Death Valley and Iceland.

At the opening of the exhibit on Sept. 27, students and faculty participated in a performance choreographed by performing arts teacher Michele Spears. Scene Monkeys Hank Doughan ’12, Lucas Foster ’13, Nick Healy ’13 and Hannah Zipperman ’12, as well as Rebecca Hutman ’12, Lieberman and Gaulke’s two daughters, Marka and Xochi Maberry-Gaulke ’12, all participated along with other performers. They put on the stilettos and walked down Hollywood Boulevard, making their way to the gallery to offer their shoes to members of the audience as a way of opening the exhibit.

The rest of the exhibit, entitled “Recollecting Performance,” displays props from historic performing art pieces. The colorful nuns’ habits that Gaulke used in one of the collaborative art groups she founded, Sisters Of Survival, were featured in the exhibit.

Gaulke’s work is also on display at Otis College of Art and Design as part of the show, “Doin’ it in Public: Feminism and Art at the Woman’s Building.” It depicts the feminist art movement born in Los Angeles in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Gaulke cited collaboration, activist art and sexuality as some of the many now-popular art trends that were invented during the movement. A large portion of artistic work at that time critiqued the role of women in society or celebrated female contributions to history, she said.

Gaulke has two installations in the exhibit, each of which displays the work she did with the collaborative art groups she founded. In 1976, Gaulke founded Feminist Art Workers, whose main focus was participatory performances. Sisters Of Survival is also featured.

“It’s the way we think about history and culture that somehow women don’t make history,” Gaulke said. “It’s ridiculous. Nothing would exist without women.”