|Controversy is in the eye of the beholder in Boehm
By: SANDRA KRAISIRIDEJA - For the North County Times
Wednesday, January 25, 2006 11:27 AM PST
Are Kenney Mencher's paintings perverse or is the
perversion in the mind of those who view his paintings?
That's the question the provocative Bay Area artist enjoys
posing in his exhibitions. While Mencher does include some racy imagery
in his work, it's his paintings with more subtle context that stir up the
A piece like "After the Game," which is part of Mencher's
current exhibit at Palomar College's Boehm Gallery, humorously depicts
a female cheerleader looking disdainfully at a naked boy who is holding
two pom-poms and jumping in front of her with glee.
The context of "Scoutmaster" and "Candy Striper," however,
are not as clear.
In "Scoutmaster" a blindfolded man is smiling while two
young boy scouts stand uncomfortably at the wall watching him.
There is something creepy about the blindfolded man's
smile and that is what Mencher intended. He remembered it was always a
little strange watching adults play games, especially if they were a little
In "Candy Striper" an attractive blonde in a candy striper
uniform stands behind an elderly patient.
On his Web site, www.kenney-mencher.com,
Mencher comments that how a painting is interpreted has more to do with
the attitude of the viewer than the actual subject of the painting. Mencher's
paintings are not shocking, but they can raise an eyebrow.
In 2003, the Hang Gallery in San Francisco stopped representing
Mencher's work because the gallery's employees felt his work was too "wry
and perverted," according to Hang Gallery director Michelle Townsend. Then
in 2004, four of Mencher's paintings were removed from the lobby of the
California State Teachers' Retirement System office.
None of the paintings that were removed from the office
depicted nudity in an offensive way. It was the sexual context interpreted
in the imagery that brought them down.
One of the paintings that was removed, "Another Roadside
Attraction," depicts an attractive young woman in a black dress and standing
outside the passenger door of a car. She is motioning as if she is about
to get in.
Mencher, who is an associate professor of art and art
history at Ohlone College in Fremont, surveyed his students about the painting
and was surprised to find out that some thought he was depicting a prostitute
about to get in the car with a customer.
Does Mencher consider himself a controversial painter?
"The controversial aspect is something the galleries play
up a lot, but I actually think that it says more about how dirty-minded
other people are. My intention was not to make dirty paintings," he said.
While the controversial paintings have brought Mencher
a good deal of press and notoriety, he said he is moving away from the
subject matter that propelled him into the spotlight.
These days, the subject matter in his paintings is more
about relationships between people and the concepts of proverbs, metaphors
"I don't want to keep making paintings that are in your
face with the nudity or sexual content because my priority is to make good
paintings, not controversial paintings," he said.
Mencher's paintings are on display through Feb. 10 along
with a group of photo collages by artist Janet Mackaig, who said she draws
on her background as a poet and a storyteller to create visual stories
with collages, which combine photographs of people, landscapes, animals
and hand-drawn images.