Diviana Ingravallo may consider her "Naked Women" a form of art, but the gallery of strippers, prostitutes, goddesses and plain lowlifes this Italian performer is presenting at Highways is more history lesson than show--a lecture with X-rated slides, nailed to a virulently anti-Catholic point of view.
This is not art less , but it is rarely art ful . Ingravallo is uttering a rallying cry for women (the emotionally, psychologically and physically battered) that fundamentally revolves around a key statement: Every day I am reminded of the consequences of patriarchy.
This performer's crusade is not only against the damage done by patriarchal religions (that she claims see women and carnal pleasure at the root of all satanism and witchcraft), but against all forms of masculine control. Let's hear it for the only true liberator: economic empowerment.
This is pretty much what Viginia Woolf also advocated. But the thrill of dollar bills in Ingravallo's world comes at a tough rate of exchange. Her uncompromising portrait of women (created with Tracy Mostovoy) who sell themselves because they have few other options--or because they choose to--is one of vengeful, ultimately ravaging, defiance.
"I totter," she says "on a thin line between self-love and abuse."
Leather, riding crops and sexual titillation seem torn from a page of Penthouse. They're a major part of this act where sadomasochistic images, votive candles and liturgical choruses join together to draw the battle lines. "Minerva, Aphrodite, mother, lover, whore" is Ingravallo's recurring incantation.
"Naked Women" is either a redefinition of Mussolini's camicia nera or Madonna taken to new levels of sacramental voyeurisme .
Would that it were enough of both. Unfortunately, the verbal portion of this show is too unsubtle and the visual part too repetitious to hit us with quite the gale force that it's aiming for.
"Naked Women," Highways Performance Gallery, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica. Friday-Sunday, 8:30 p.m. Ends Sunday. $10; (213)