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Mending Myself by Leanne Shea Rhem OCAD University PDF  | Print |  E-mail

 Negative thought detail

Leanne Shea Rhem Negative Thought, ( detail)
Black polyester free motion embroidery
photos: Christine Lim
Model: Leanne Shea Rhem

July 8th, 2011    Mending Myself  Throughout my final thesis year at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD U) I developed a collection of wearable forms which express a self-reflective narrative. Knowingly embarking on the journey of self-discovery and growth was essential in developing this body of work. It explores what it means to be a woman and to be hindered and motivated by societal expectations of women in addition to our own. Unconventional and conventional fibre based materials and processes were used throughout the series in order to represent the different components of my identity and express my most authentic self. The work also confronts accumulated perceptions that are generally believed to be true of myself or of women. This work is representative of my own feelings concerning my body and behaviour in addition to my personality and thoughts. These wearable forms are the vessels through which I hope to initiate conversations concerning the experience of being female.

nagative thought

Negative Thought,Black polyester free motion embroidery
photos: Christine Lim
Model: Leanne Shea Rhem
target detail
 Target ( Bust line detail)
Suit weight silk, pleated silk organza, zipper, red permanent marker writing, thread
photo: Christine Lim
Model: Leanne Shea Rhem

 The direction of my art practice shifted the summer before I completed my final year. The way I saw my work changed, in the last class of a Gender Studies course. I can pinpoint the exact moment when I realized that making pretty clothes was no longer going to satisfy this newly found desire to bring about some form of social change through my art. At that moment, I stood in front of my classmates explaining the materials and processes involved in the construction of a dress I had made for a wearable structures class in the Material Art and Design (MA&D) department. Half way through explaining the process of sewing silk and leather, I realized I was not really talking about a dress anymore. I was talking about the way I felt about my body, about the rights I felt I did not possess to display my own body the way I chose. It was then that I recognized the true power of clothing and of materials cited to the body.  

Target

 Target  Suit weight silk, pleated silk organza, zipper, red permanent marker writing, thread
photo: Christine Lim
Model: Leanne Shea Rhem

The three forms as a collection embody various feelings I have as a young, heterosexual, middle class, educated, white woman living in Canada. I have acknowledged these often negative feelings through my labours in making as a way of healing my self-image. Negative Thought was the first piece, it was the most emotionally difficult to make. The black, lace-like structure envelops the body debilitating much of my body’s movement is constructed in such a way that perfectly describes a negative thought process and sets a mood to discuss self-harming behaviours. Target was the second piece; it was the work where I shared many of the stories and experiences that have traumatized me in my life. After constructing a white silk, formal, form-fitting, revealing dress I proceeded to pollute the surface with bull’s eyes created by writing the words that describe stories of being a target in concentric circles, pinpointing what brought me to feel the negative thoughts that were represented in the first piece. Armour was the last piece that in the body of work. The kozo structure around the body is intended to represent one way in which I can armour myself. A metaphor is created in this piece through the use of kozo, which as a material comes from the bark of a mulberry tree. Various materials were used throughout the collection in order to best express each individual concept behind the piece.  

armour detail

Armour (detail)
Kozo, metal grommets, leather lacing
photos: Christine Lim
Model: Leanne Shea Rhem

Through the use of wearable structures the viewer is able to imagine themselves within the work, performing what movements would be possible, how they would feel, what they like, and do not like about the work and about themselves. This experience of viewing the work has provoked many discussions between myself as the maker and the viewer, making exhibitions essential in accumulating the research and educational conversations that serve as proof of the social change promoted through art, design, and craft.  

armour

 Armour
Kozo, metal grommets, leather lacing
photo: Christine Lim
Model: Leanne Shea Rhem 

 This body of work is the beginning of what I foresee being a lifetime pursuit of self-discovery and equality amongst people. In the coming years I hope to find venues where my work can be both performed and installed while conversations and workshops can be conducted to promote the ever evolving topics of: human rights, body image, gender, sexuality, community building, and societal interaction with the body.

Leanne Shea Rhem  

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http://www.leanneshearhem.com/

 

 
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