with Jeanne Vicerial
Jeanne Vicerial’s Enigmatic ‘Armors’ Evoke Timeless Strength in Elegant Sculptures Made of Thread
Evocative of medieval suits of armor or monastic traditions, Jeanne Vicerial’s intricate sculptures exude quiet strength in thousands of draping threads. The French artist layers halyards, a type of cord used to hoist sails or flags, to outline the curves of figures wearing elegant cloaks, hoods, and shield-like accessories with unraveled coils at their feet. In her series Armors—a play on the French words amour and armure, meaning “love” and “armor,” respectively—she assembles enigmatic garments that await use, as if crystallized over time.
Vicerial was inspired by the Gorgons of Greek mythology, the most famous of which is Medusa, whose hair roiled with snakes and turned anyone who looked at them into stone. “The idea was to insert myself into that great mythological story but to suspend its time, making it impossible to define the time or place where they were born,” the artist tells Colossal. She leaves the wearers’ identities open to interpretation, allowing the viewer to imagine the possibilities of their histories or purposes.
Drawing on her background in fashion and textiles, Vicerial was originally interested in studying the male figure and clothing. She began to focus on expressions of the female form when she participated in a year-long residency at Villa Medici in Rome and was struck by the way women have been represented throughout art history. “When I looked at the sculptures in the Villa’s park and saw the Venuses with their wet drapery, the representations of women in lascivious postures with draped cloth that always seems to be accidentally slipping off, I decided to focus again on the female body,” she says. Vicerial turns the ancient trope on its head by emphasizing garments as protective coverings that beget a formidable presence, merely hinting at the figure beneath.
Describing the works as “guardians,” Vicerial provokes subtle associations with medieval European burials of knights and nobles, Japanese samurai armor, or nuns’ habits. She sometimes places varnished flowers like roses into cavities located where a metal chest plate would have protected one’s vital organs in combat. Like portals glimpsing a mysterious interior, they highlight the body’s vulnerability.
Blurring the boundary between fashion and sculpture, the phantom-like works are devoid of facial expressions. Long threads cascade from headdresses, shoulders, and faces illustrating dignity and vulnerability, and the spectral, imposing armors are “protections that express a form of power, but that are in reality extremely fragile because they are made only of threads,” she says, underlining the dubious tension between strength and weakness. “To touch them is in a way to destroy them because they could never be presented in the same way again.”
Armors comprised a recent exhibition with TEMPLON. If you’re in Paris, you can find Vicerial’s work in the group exhibition Des cheveux et des poils at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs through September 17. Follow updates about forthcoming shows and new works on the artist’s Instagram. (via .able)
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