Lauren Elizabeth Cunningham
Ben Venom at Get This! Gallery

Cultures are colliding at Get This! Gallery, where Heavy Metal and domestic craft participate in an unorthodox duet. The current exhibition, I Make No Mistakes, features textiles by Atlanta-born, San Francisco-based artist Ben Venom. His handiwork decorates the gallery walls. Quilts, vests and panels made from denim jeans and band t-shirts display Heavy Metal text and imagery. The result is a surprising mix of traditions and histories.

Conceptually, the blending of Heavy Metal and textiles surpasses the unexpected and teeters on the impossible. The thickly-padded, insular quilts threaten the loudness that Heavy Metal strives to produce. At the same time, the idea of a soft blanket or warm vest is contradicted by the words "heavy" and "metal" alone. The tension in Venom's objects befits their subject matter, since conflict and hostility also define Heavy Metal.

Several reviews of the exhibition have drawn attention to another important disparity: the fact that Heavy Metal is known for its machismo, while sewing is historically a female pursuit. Venom's marriage of opposites is not gender-neutral. Rather, the masculinity of the objects prevails, due largely to the gruesome and wild imagery and brash, violent language. Traces of underlying misogyny further reflect Heavy Metal's male-dominated audience and culture.

Venom achieves maximum effect when his work strikes a balance between the humility of textile art and the theatricality of Heavy Metal. For example, the stitching in Iron Skull and Ace Skull not only holds the quilts' layers together but also mimics a spider web. The more Venom can relate his craft t0 his content, the more compelling the outcome will be. Moving forward, Venom will have to be more sensitive to the conventions of textile art, which currently cannot rival his obvious fandom of Heavy Metal music.

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