HAIR, DIAMONDS, DAZZLING COLOUR / a girls best friend? Why is femininity associated with such spectacle? We ask Rachel Ludlow whose recent exhibition titled “Glitter” at AWOL gallery displayed such eye candy..
Rachel is a MFA candidate at York University, she has been living in Toronto for the past two years after moving from Regina, Saskatchewan.
LHG: why do you over exaggerate the hair?
RL: It sort of happened instinctually for me. I felt like the hair needed to seem as though it might have a life of its own, I needed it to be overwhelming. I’ve been growing my hair out for the last 5 years or so and I want it to get longer still. It is currently several inches past my shoulders. That may have something to do with it.
LHG: You mentioned in your artist statement that you use photographs of yourself as the subject? Do you take the photographs?
RL: The first painting I made in the series was based on a photograph I took of myself. I was playing around with exaggerating my facial features with makeup and documented the process. I used one of those images to start the series, and then switched to a photo of a model from a fashion magazine for the second painting. I had pulled images of a bunch of different models to use in the paintings and when I flipped through my collection of images I realized they all looked like me. I projected a photo of myself over the model I’d painted and the features lined up perfectly. I was making it about me anyway in a not so roundabout way, so I decided to just go ahead and use my own image.I take the photographs myself; I wouldn’t be as comfortable if there was someone else there. I don’t show many people the reference photographs because they feel too personal. The paintings provide me some distance because they feel more like fictions, even though I’m in a way documenting and exposing my own insecurities and obsessions.
LHG: May you expand on why you chose to focus on solely on consumerism in your work?
RL: I have focused a lot on consumerism in my work simply because it’s what I know, it is my everyday experience. It is also something that both excites and frustrates me. I used to get lost in the fantasy of beautiful fashion images and that initial pleasure in viewing would quickly morph into wishing to exist within those fictional photographic worlds. I think those types of images have lost their enchanting power on me.
LHG: How does that affect your feminine identity/ what is it that makes you the most uncomfortable re your identity and consumerism and do you feel as though are you obsessed with it?
RL: My younger self bought into the notion that having and displaying the right commodities would offer me power to the extent that I could play a role in determining how other people saw me. This is where I think consumerism and my participation in it has affected my feminine identity. I made calculated efforts to pretend and play dress-up under the impression that in doing so I was in control. If there were were things I couldn’t change about my body, I was still able to exercise control through what I wore. My experience now regarding consumerism and my feminine identity is more one of frustration and, yes, obsession. Although I don’t think I hold the same illusions I did as a girl, I still find myself getting caught up in wishing and buying. My frustration comes from my complicity in sustaining a system that will only ever provide me with dissatisfaction and keep me out of any real position of power. I identify my relationship with consumerism as one of obsession because of how much space it takes up in my life. I think I’m still stuck in the game of pretending, the game of having and appearing.
LHG: How did growing up in Regina then moving to Toronto affect you? Do you like living in a larger city?
RL: I’m sure the move has affected me more than I realize. I find that being in a new city makes me look at things more and I’m forced to process more visual information day to day. I do like living in a larger city, although I find it can get exhausting.
LHG: Are you working on anything new? Any new influences on your practice?
RL: My studio time lately has been spent playing around with images and colours. I enjoy that part of the process and am going to keep experimenting for a bit to see what develops. It often takes me some time before I get something I really want to run with. Right now I’ve got piles of cut-out jewels from magazines, neon colour swatches, stained glass, and glitter all over my drawing table.
Installation view @ Awol Gallery