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Back to Reviews 96

"Girls and Horses," 
Installation view.

Amanda Riding 
Diplomat, 1996.

Molly and Andrew
Playing Horsey, 1996.

Celeste in Her Bedroom, 
Video projection.

janet biggs  
at chassie post 
by Robert Mahoney

Janet Biggs has been interested in kids for 
some time, probably because she makes 
prosthetic devices for children as part of 
her day-job. Her best work thus far was 
"Family Ties" (1994), an installation which 
she did in the back room at PPOW. She 
arranged nightlights all over the floor and 
captured perfectly the crazy pinball energy 
of a 3 a.m. baby wakeup. The theme in her 
new show here is "Girls and Horses." Biggs 
elaborates a strange attraction between 
girls and horses from its cute origins in 
"horseplay" to a full-blown sporting mania. 
In the center of the gallery are eight 
home-videos displaying the varieties of 
horseplay: with parent as the horse, 
standing, crawling or (in one case) seated; 
or with a child on a pogo stick, or on a 
carousel. My favorite sequence features a 
four-year-old, half bored, sitting in the 
drizzling rain atop one of those plastic 
rocking horses placed out front of discount 
stores on city avenues in the boroughs 
(Court Street in Brooklyn has half a 
Stalking all, like one of the Four Horsemen 
of the Apocalypse, is Amanda Riding 
Diplomaat (sic), a video projection of a 
perfectly poised teenage girl on a stately 
white horse trotting around the 
circumference of the whole gallery. As it 
wheels about them, the home videos are 
altered imperceptibly, and a darker, 
questioning mood emerges. In the backroom 
is Celeste in Her Bedroom, a photograph of 
another teenage equestrian and her booty, a 
plethora of blue and red ribbons, some of 
which, dated 1972, are autobiographical. 
These ribbons paint a pretty picture, but 
cover up the extreme pressure, great 
financial strain (a teenage daughter's 
horse must be the worst of all fatherly 
money pits) and false promises of horsing 
around. Somewhere up the ladder, all these 
pressures will pop the girl's dream bubble 
and throw her from the horse. And then 
where will she be? The way in which Biggs 
frames innocence in a dark space haunted by 
a ghostly horse cautions every parent 
early: be careful how you play, for play 
becomes life.
Chassie Post, New York
Mar. 2 - Apr. 6, 1996
Robert Mahoney is a New York art critic who 
also works as public information officer at 
the Queens Museum.