DETROIT — If we require a poster image for 2017–18 female experiences, I recommend one by illustrator Lucy Cahill, spotted adorning a T-shirt for sale at her solo exhibition, NOW I WANNA… at Grey Area — an almost unbearably hip mixed-use art and retail space in the Southwest neighborhood. The shirt depicts a woman with a 1940s-style V-neck dress and black hair, pressing her hands to her ears, mouth wide, and eyes furious. Wavy emphasis lines frame her face. “TOO MANY CREEPS” it declares in orange letters trailing gooey serifs. Girl, I hear you.
This image contains everything fans of Cahill have come to expect: engaging, funny, and colorful compositions that owe as much inspiration to midcentury design aesthetics as they do to Love & Rockets comics. Cahill’s odd composite images are surreal, personal, and feminist. NOW I WANNA… features small-scale new works, including framed drawings, resin-sealed paintings, and screen-printed posters and T-shirts. Each of them provides a dislocating and dynamic little burst of femininity — not the crappy, mass market, #LadyDoritos kind, but the gross, difficult, and hilarious world of the weird girl. Females who burn things down. Females who are demanding attention and demanding to be left alone. Females who are, for some reason, being covered in a rain of fish blood. No one ever said being a woman was easy. But Cahill makes it look empowering and fun.
Cahill’s work is set in a small, secondhand retail boutique redolent with thrift store scores, and a laughably “curated” (read: tiny) record section, crowned with three of the artist’s graphic posters. Cahill is one of the go-to designers for the nearby venue El Club’s lineup of out-of-town talent, all of whom are extremely hip, by virtue of the fact that I’ve never heard of most of them (I recognize Thurston Moore. Get off my lawn, you kids).
Cahill is having fun while channeling all that garden-variety frustration stewing under the lid of any woke young woman into dead rats, floating Betty Boop heads, and Rat-Fink-style phantasmagoria. One of her framed sketches presents the concept of “Lizard Women of the Future,” and whatever it means, it’s got my vote. The social hierarchy is long past due for revision: less creeps, more weird girls. The future is not just female, it is Lizard Woman.
Lucy Cahill’s NOW I WANNA… continues at Grey Area (4200 W Vernor Hwy. Rear Unit on Scotten, Detroit) through March 4.