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The dancer has a cat’s head and the body of a naked woman. Her partner is a monstrous, spike-toothed, anthropomorphic bat. He dips her low; she thrusts one leg into the air. What’ll come next isn’t clear: Will their passionate tango segue into lovemaking, or will he just take a huge bite out of her? Noche Crist leaves it to you to decide.
Tango With Transylvanian Husband is just one of the wildly sexy works that live in The Pinck Room, Crist’s permanent installation at the Millennium Arts Center in Southwest D.C. She’s filled the space with her own paintings and sculptures, a scattering of found objects, erotic books from her personal library, and a few creations contributed by artist friends. The room is many things, not least a commentary on sexboth its pleasures and its perils. “I think people who don’t have sex become crazy,” Crist says, and she’s got the experience to speak with some authority: She’s 94.
“I am a storyteller,” Crist says, sitting in her Northwest D.C. home not far from Sibley Memorial Hospital and sipping her favorite champagne, Veuve Clicquot. Decked out in a red-white-and-pink muumuu, the petite Romanian-born Crist entertains friends with saucy stories from many places and times. In Bucharest “between the wars,” convents hosted orgies, she says. Honolulu in the ’50s was the capital of sin. And, as that painting suggests, she did have a Transylvanian husband.
“I tried to kill him,” she says. “When he was drunk, I would open the window, and it would snow on him, but he wouldn’t catch cold.”
Crist got along much better with her second husband, U.S. Air Force Col. David Crist; their marriage spanned four happy decades, and as
an officer’s wife, she got to travel extensively before settling in Washington.
The Pinck RoomCrist chose the spelling to give the name an Eastern European inflectionbegan with a grant from arts patron and MAC advisory-board member Olga Hirshhorn. A small circle of friends, including fellow artist Judy Jashinsky, helped Crist assemble the room. Her first instruction, Jashinsky remembers, was to paint it “clitoris-pink.” The space has continued to evolve since it opened in May 2002; friends contribute new objects from time to time, subject always to Crist’s approval.
Notwithstanding her views on the maddening effects of abstinence, Crist paints sex itself as a kind of madness, a tempestuous act that often takes place in a Hieronymus Bosch-style landscape. In The Earthquake, animal-headed women copulate with a variety of mannish beasts. A fish-headed woman rides a giant toad; a reptile-headed gal claws at the back of her fish-ish beau.The ground beneath them has splitand the earth, we presume, has moved.
Along with her paintings, Crist has populated the Pinck Room with female figurines cast in transparent polyester resin. These Polyester Prostitutes likewise mix and match human and animal parts. A bat-woman gives birth to the head of a lion. Another winged woman stands before a window, sunlight illuminating the lacy shapes that fill her clear body. Miscellaneous objets d’art contribute to the assemblage’s playful aira bull’s head wears lipstick, a furry pink jacket sports pacifiers where the buttons should be, and a wall-mounted rack holds sex toys.
There’s also a bed: “The Pinck Room is a room for being bad in,” Crist says. One friend, who borrowed the room to celebrate her husband’s birthday, even left a pair of sequined underwear hanging from the circular mirror suspended over the bed. “They go well there,” says Crist. She has no intention of removing them. Maurice Martin
The Pinck Room is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, May 1 through June 30, 2003, and during all public exhibitions at Millennium Arts Center, 65 I St. NW. For more information, call (202) 479-2572.