Myths + Monsters > My Pretties

Excerpts from the curatorial essay written by Léola Le Blanc for Ex Corpore at the Mary E. Black Gallery, Halifax, NS. January 2010.

For the full essay, visit Léola's webpage here: Ex Corpore

Ex Corpore

Pearls on pig gut, flowers and feathers
Fishnet and needles, fur, hair and fabric
Bleached bits of bone and black shiny beads
Corks, doilies, and pink plastic wraps
These are a few of their favourite things

These are not Maria von Trapp’s favourite things. These are some of Carol Collicutt’s and WhiteFeather’s favoured things in their collaborative exhibition entitled Ex Corpore. Loosely translated, Ex implies ‘out of’ or ‘from’, and Corpore denotes body. Either one, ‘out of body’ or ‘from the body’, defines a relationship to the body and is a suitable title highlighting how we may engage in creating and maintaining a sense of self. The human body is a contentious object, surprisingly strong given its calcium based construct and housed in flesh, fluids and hair and bearing the heavy load of social, cultural and political baggage. What Collicutt and WhiteFeather choose to present is strongly visceral, vacillating between allure and repulsion. Conventionally lovely, endearing objects - dolls, embroidery hoops, a wedding dress – have been cleaved from their habitual loci of innocence, whimsy and fancy and transcribed into a space reminiscent of a 17th and 18th century cabinet of curiosities. Ex Corpore is evocative of Frankenstein’s laboratory where the genesis of hybrids and chimera propagate. Frankenstein was a creator. He created a monster. However, the Grand creator, Mary Shelley, crafted both horrors, Frankenstein and his fiend, in an eloquent literary form. Similarly, Ex Corpore’s creators do both, that is to say breathe life into seemingly repulsive entities fabricated from discarded, organic and inorganic detritus while orchestrating an exhibition that is disturbing yet provocative. These elements are reprehensible in their material history, yet captivating in their ability to seduce and beguile us.

...

When I think of little dolls I think big head and eyes, infantile body, cuddly, soft little garments… WhiteFeather’s ‘little dolls’ are the antithesis of sweet little Baby Jane. True, they are similar in stature, have two arms and legs, most of time. However, the similarity stops there. Their little heads, mostly swathed in fishnet hosiery, are sightless; their eye sockets are empty. But are they blind? As spectators we are the ones compelled not only to look at but into these repugnant little creatures. These anthropomorphic beings are stitched-up from human hair, bones, fur, corncobs, corks, doilies, hosiery, tulle, parts of a pink plastic umbrella, and fabric reminiscent of toile de Jouy. One would think that the latter would infuse the little creatures, which are genderless, with feminine attributes. No, these little dolls are more the type Wednesday, the younger of the Adams family’s little cherub, would have concocted in her bedroom laboratory. However, WhiteFeather’s creatures, although repugnant, go beyond revulsion. They are affective. By piecing together tossed, lost, and discarded materials, WhiteFeather transmogrifies disparate, disembodied objects and breathes a renewed life into her entities. We do end up looking into them, gazing intently with and for our needs, hopes and desires concerning issues, both psychologically and physically, of the now and after, of immortality.

Ex Corpore is a symbiotic relationship between Carol Collicutt and WhiteFeather... WhiteFeather concocts creatures resembling what most of us would think of as voodoo dolls, effigies, or idols. They are for the most part miniscule humanoids with the exception of Alma, which is a full-scale female entity. These little creatures are highly sophisticated in their make-up: with their imprinted toile waxed skin they resemble highly tattooed wild beings that parade themselves in lacy garments and see-through plastic dresses, showing mostly their bare baby doll limbs, some fabricated out of bone, chair spindles or cork. They are extremely freakish and sinister, yet they beguile us. They bewitch us through a reciprocal demand that we possess them as they possess us. The attraction is partly based in our unfulfilled concerns on the subject of loss and desire. The strength of this motley crew comes from their potential in providing mechanisms to cope with fears concerning the confrontations between life and death, body and spirit, private and the public. What WhiteFeather offers us are anthropomorphic vessels that may fulfill and assuage these needs in ways unorthodox and often resisted in established scientific and religious doctrines.

For the full essay, visit Léola's webpage here: Ex Corpore

Curatorial essay for Ex Corpore
2010