too bad for heaven, too good for hell at Mrs. Gallery in Maspeth, NY
Wall-bound, fabric-clad, sculptures loaded with traditionally femme signifiers: flowers, broomsticks, high heeled shoes, soft body parts, and ruffled skirts; are displayed above a plush, dusty rose colored carpet. The title reads like a badge of honor that each artwork could wear with pride, and speaks to the otherworldliness of Nestler’s project.
Each work in the exhibition is freighted with personal and cultural allusions, all embedded within Nestler’s rich material language. In Three Tongues, lush red velvet curtains frame a petite stage, a series of lapping stone tongues take the place of the orchestra in the pit. In The Therapist (attributed to Magritte), wooden shutters open onto a window muntin which imprisons a leather clad torso, its conical breasts bisected by the grid become toothless mouths, one chomping on a soft cigar. A taunt to Freud, they goad classification.
Spun Out, a frenzy of fleeced neoprene, tulle, foam, Ultrasuede, wood and cork, has all the drama of pioneering modern dancer Loie Fuller. The sculpture resembles a spinning skirt, pinned at the center with a cork stopper and ringed by a parade of red high heeled feet. As much as there is joy and inhibition (the dance, the uncorked red wine of it), there is also something manic, something more sinister. Referencing Hans Christian Andersen’s The Red Shoes, it is hard not to see the amputated ever-dancing feet of the original grim fairy tale. The Red Shoes is a warning to girls: don’t be vain, don’t indulge in your impulses. Step outside of expectations and be brutally punished.
In her newest video, Satisfying Slime Storytime, we hear this fable told in the sing-song voice of adolescence over footage of Nestler’s hands joyfully exploring slime in its many forms. The video mimics the bizarrely niche TikTok and YouTube videos by the same name, produced by women and generally marketed to girls; a craze come and gone from the zeitgeist. In Nestler’s version, as the satiating slime makes the wrenching story palatable, one might wonder why we are so quick to dismiss popular culture when it lies within women’s realms.
In Nestler’s practice, she approaches each piece from a place of intuition, discomfort, and thorough research. “What is it about fairytales we’re drawn to?” she asks, “why does this feel trivial, or even embarrassing?” In the center of one sculpture we see the familiar maiden/crone visual illusion. This judgmental cousin to the duck-rabbit puzzle is sand blasted onto a mirror and mounted under drawn-up satin skirts, at exactly the viewer's crotch level. As we choose to see the figure as an old or young woman, we recognize that seeing is a choice. These plays of perception and interpretation are at the heart of Nestler’s deeply feminist sculptures.
The miniatures, fables, and fairies occupy a time outside of our standard 24-hour clock, while Slime-time and Surrealist time have an interior pace, which feels particularly resonant in this moment. Just as the pandemic upended our conception of time, Nestler shows us what it means to be beholden only to our own boundaries.
-Press Release written by Andrea Nitsche-Krupp