Armored Anxiety (Girls Like Us)

Posted on: March 28, 2017
Views: 2161


Where does one does one decide to place the line between visibility and safety? Can a body be exposed for the sake of visibility without risking exploitation? The neon colors and reflective surface of the wearable object provide a sense of levity, while the formal shapes resembling armor and protection allude to the need for defense and self preservation. The shoulder pads are extended and protruding in ways similar to a medieval pauldron, but have been replaced with inflatable toucan heads. The mohawk style of the helmet also echoes ideas of armor and battle, but once again is materialized through colorful vinyl and plastic leis. These dichotomies and contrasts created through materials and shapes are meant to echo the dichotomies of visibility and safety. Richardson highlights the complexities of the queer experience, providing a sense of empowerment and a need to be seen but coupled with the knowledge of a constant battle and the inherent politicality and aggression of the queer body on heteronormative culture.

Other Projects by Shelby Wynne Richardson

Shelby Wynne Richardson

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MFA Student

Major: Sculpture

Graduation Year: 2017

Artist Statement:

Queer, for many, acts as an identifier. A proclamation of otherness or an unapologetic refusal to define oneself in the language of a culture not their own. Yet, most often queer acts strongest as verb. Queer: an action taken to dismantle that which does not apply. Queering spaces to give purpose. Queering materials and language to provide beacons and reminders of hope. Queering our narratives. Queerings the rules.

Through various methods of visibility, such as material culture or community driven discourse, my work aims to create lesbian cultural space for growth and empowerment. The reclamation of language, narratives, and sex positive dialogue works in opposition to patriarchal expectations and provides a sense of support for those feeling their stories are not part of the larger constellation of disenfranchised “others”. The reality is that queer bodies, specifically queer female bodies, need each other now more than ever.

Capitalizing on the perceptibility of certain materials and the overperformance of oneself, I begin to explore and push the boundaries of identity; reclaiming the underbelly of the visual culture while shining visibility on the queerness of my existence. Rooted between many places I am constantly drawing influence from the Instagram famous, those who wear their “plastic-ness” on their sleeves, and embrace fully the absurdity and spectacle of the feminine, and yet my life has never existed without the legacy and tradition of craft resting firmly on my shoulders.

The specificity of my materials is many times as important as my content, as I search for ways to utilize inherent metaphors or aesthetic qualities to reinforce my continued visual narratives. Through building these narratives surrounding queer female identity I contribute to the ontological experience of collective storytelling in which those who experience feelings of “otherness” find personal reclamation in the identification of a space made just for them. Through my use of adornment, glitter, and kitsch I elevate these materials while at the same time making cultural space for those who share in feelings of cultural invisibility.

I can see you. Do you see me too?