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JH

Daphne Simons’ Peach Teat Billboards

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Daphne Simons, Peach Teats at the Dude Ranch, 2022 (detail), image courtesy of artist Daphne Simons, Peach Teats at the Dude Ranch, 2022 (installation view, Reeves Road), photo by Sam Hartnett Daphne Simons, Peach Teats at the Dude Ranch, 2022 (detail), image courtesy of artist Daphne Simons, Peach Teats at the Dude Ranch, 2022 (detail), image courtesy of artist Daphne Simons, Peach Teats at the Dude Ranch, 2022 (detail), image courtesy of artist

The slippery vagueness of these ‘patches' is what gives these billboards their appeal. They are open to many interpretations, with (from the gallery blurb) ‘rural queer belonging' being the salient one—specifically same-sex female with the heart/breasts motif; specifically same-sex male with the dripping phallus.

Pakuranga

 

Daphne Simons
Peach Teats at the Dude Ranch

Curated by Andrew Kennedy


4 December 2022 - 29 January 2023

These ‘woven patches’ are loaded with agricultural and sexual ambiguity. Four elegantly-composed framed images—apparently designed to decorate your denim jeans, skirt or jacket, and (when recontextualised) make an embroidered political statement seemingly about the wearer’s sexual identity—now enlarged with considerable formal impact to be viewed as hoardings on Reeves Rd or outside the Parnell train station.

So we ask ourselves: Is the twice repeated sickle a crescent moon in the sky wrapped around a rocket, a slashing scythe (a symbol of castration), or a curved directional arrow to help turning the teat’s screw-on thread? Is the teat that is designed for feeding calves (permanently separated from their mothers) and which featured on a billboard on a farm near Hunterville, a phallic symbol, a dildo, a breast, a metaphor for cultural intervention into nature, or a cipher for cruelty to animals.

Another image, a layered double heart with four squirting breasts on top, is easier to interpret. The rural location and melded body parts reference the 1985 film, Desert Hearts, a pioneering movie about a lesbian romance set in Reno in 1959; and the quadruple tits: a famous MAdGE anti GM billboard from the turn of the millennium, showing a naked woman in profile on her hands and knees, with four breasts. Like a cow with udders.

That veined red heart motif, as a somewhat gory romantic symbol, is grotesquely funny and not threatening like the sickle / teat (scythe /cock) image, which is also an obvious vulgar pun on screwing. “The Dude Ranch” of the show’s title suggests perhaps that the Rangitīkei property displaying the billboard is a stud farm for inseminating bulls, as well as a tourist hotel for ‘cowboys’. Maybe also a gay brothel?

Simons’ fourth image, seen outside the Parnell train station, features a cow’s wet nose and slobbering tongue (like the others suspended in a cloudy sky). It can be taken as a simple symbol for hunger, for needed nourishment, or much broader—sexual desire. Overt unrelenting horniness.

The slippery vagueness of these ‘patches’ is what gives these billboards their appeal. They are open to many interpretations, with (from the gallery blurb) ‘rural queer belonging’ being the salient one—specifically same-sex female with the heart/breasts motif; specifically same-sex male with the dripping phallus.

It is an entertaining show because of its poetic openness, inventively incorporated sources and subtly understated humour. Unusually for such roadside billboards, the sensual and highly textured images really reward close inspection and prolonged contemplation.

John Hurrell

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