Adornment can be wielded as a means of protection or immunity against visible and invisible harm- like a talisman, power heels, or an indigo stole dyed with plants made from ancient ancestral processes. Donning on an article imbued with powerful energy or styling an expression of who we are, can be ways of connecting to our personal and collective histories, signals of reclamation, and acts of social resistance. In these ways, objects that we wear can have powerful transformative qualities within ourselves, what we may believe about belonging, and act as visual interruptions to dominant culture in public spaces.
Through the artist’s paintings series Upping The Aunty and Begum, Meera Sethi asks “how do we think about what we wear and its relationship to social power?”
Marina Dempster’s “yarn painted” shoes invite a pensive self- reflection through her slow craft practice like a mirror that becomes a “…powerful portal into empowered perspectives, awareness and shifts in consciousness”.
This paired exhibition attempts to honour and celebrate connections between personal healing and political transformation through objects of what we wear; and invites reflection on the seemingly invisible dominant cultures ever present in public spaces and institutions, and how it informs who becomes invisible and visible within them.
In Visible is supported by the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.
Image Credit: Marina Dempster, Ebullient, 2008, Yarn Painting. Courtesy of the artist | Meera Sethi, Govind, 2017, Acrylic Painting. Courtesy of the artist.
Meet the artists
Meera Sethi is an interdisciplinary visual artist who’s affective, research-based practice explores the body, dress, garments, and materiality from critical, feminist, and anti-colonial perspectives. She engages drawing, painting, fibre, illustration, and performance to think through migration and its relationship to fashion, care, embodiment, and self.
Fashion and style may be everyday terms for many people, yet how often do we think about what we wear each day and its relationship ideas of social power? Upping the Aunty and Begum are two bodies of work that explore playfulness and personal expression to ask questions about the role of creativity in resistance to the everyday understanding of popular fashion and street style. The paintings place saris, salwar kameez, ridas, and hybrid forms of dress centre stage, while celebrating excess and adornment as positions of style and survival. Meera Sethi’s practice uses a variety of mediums to explore connections between labour, embodiment, and historical processes as related to clothing, textile, and migration. She is interested in tying the personal to the political through objects of care.
Marina Dempster is a sculptural fibre artist who makes contemporary objects employing traditional craft techniques. Informed by the patterns and cycles of nature, this crafting is a transmutation of materials, thoughts and emotions. Loop by loop, bead by bead, she explores human paradoxes: comfort and discomfort, stillness and action, acceptance and change. Her playful and vibrant installations are a celebration of the human imagination, showing that renewal and growth are encouraged when a personal practice is shared in a communal context.
Applying the pre-Columbian Huichol (Mexican Indian) tradition of “yarn painting”, Marina Dempster immerses herself in this time-honoured process of embedding beads and yarns into a new skin of beeswax and pine resin. Multicultural ethnography meets haute couture in a magical transfiguration process, as she concerns herself with issues of personal connection to one’s histories and futures by nurturing the present.
Fashion relics are re-adopted and undergo a ‘back-to-nature’ metamorphosis becoming fetish objects symbolic of our capacity for healing and dynamism. The titles, states of being, speak with irony to the illusory and transient nature of self- perception. The mirror is a beguiling muse – perhaps a reflection of relentless and conditioned expectations and distractions, or a powerful portal into empowered perspectives, awareness and shifts in consciousness.
Dempster invites us to playfully contemplate the confounding high heel, “while being everything that pinches, it elevates us in inches, and inevitably makes us more sensitive to the ground we walk on.”