Fay Ku

Kathryn M. Davis

Unabashedly feminine in her approach to art, Fay Ku is no bonbon. Her work, all soft watercolor washes gashed with sinewy graphite lines, depicts lovely ladies (and one young boy with some “fish sticks”) lounging in frankly erotic poses. Look a bit closer, however, and they get downright, and deliciously, creepy. A fusion of the artist’s Taiwanese and American roots, her paper pieces owe much to Chinese art history with its negative space and restrained palette. Here’s how Ku’s work feel to me on a much less lofty front: It’s a striking synthesis of Marilyn Monroe’s breathy and timeless allure edged with the confident intelligence of contemporary actress Lucy Liu. It works; and oh boy, has it got star power. This stuff is sexy and smart. In one mixed-media image, a woman with the expressionless face of an eternal goddess lounges, prone, while collaged little fishes nibble between her legs. Without the fish, “Nibble” would be just another nude, uninspired in subject, composition, or hue. Add the little piscine feeders, an the painting reveals its formal – and delightful – subtleties as well as a naughty glee about female genitalia. Fu was invited by the University of New Mexico’s Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque to create a print with the masters there. The results, on view here, are two lithographs of sea nymphs. It was Fu’s first foray into that exacting medium, and all concerned were ecstatic with the results: Tamarind Gallery director Arif Khan glowed like the proud parent of a newborn baby. Cigars would certainly have been in order – on more than one level (at Eight Modern, Santa Fe, New Mexico).