PHELPSOGRAPHS – Christina Marie Phelps
JANUARY 10, 2018
“I have always felt a strong urge to play while I create and communicate my observations about the world: I crave experience and challenges. My personal work tends to be about the human psyche, communication and political issues. It doesn’t have to be exact or pretty but it has to be meaningful to me. I am often inspired by the artwork, games, and toys; of children of all ages and capabilities. Like my contemporaries, I am fascinated by their unbridled process rooted in play and experimentation and I like to juxtapose it against the conflicts of western society today. I coin my typical genre/brand of art as: “Poli-Pop” (Political-driven pop art) and ‘(Street) Artful Play’.
For this diptych, I was greatly inspired by the Rayograph work of my 20th century contemporary, Man Ray. Like Ray who has also dabbled with airbrush work and stencil art, I took to the medium almost immediately having had prior experience with stencil art. I enjoy the use of stark black/white/grey palette to highlight the recognizable objects as it references the idea of memories, history, and also mass media (newspapers and old black and white television broadcasts). These factors inspired me greatly in my selection of materials to experiment with.
Alike Man Ray who found success in his use of common day materials and readymades in his rayographs (Laxton, 2009), I too decided to use simple motifs and objects, of contrasting materials: solid soldier figures navigating the implied “terrains” formed from the placement of the lace lingerie undergarments. I wanted these photograms to speak of issues of constructed gender roles and question certain stereotypes surrounding them. D’Amico and Weinstein (1999: 4) believe that the military ‘is a fundamental site for the construction of gender, that is, the defining of the boundaries of behaviour – indeed, of life possibilities – for people we call men and women.’ ‘The military has been the quintessential masculine institution, where boys become men’ (ibid). I wanted to highlight these gender role issues using the simple motifs (children’s toy soldiers and adult lacey lingerie) as a point of discussion and debate. The works are both constructed using the juxtaposition of small toy soldier figurines contrasted with the softness and delicate lace undergarments. I also placed the floral and heart lace undergarments in shapes of mountains/valleys (Fig. 1), and a vine-y jungle (Fig. 2), to evoke the feminine Mother Nature. Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II for the Canadian and United States Militaries, respectively. I am quite curious as to what their reactions would be to my Phelpsograph work if they were both alive to see it today?!”
Christina Marie Phelps
D’Amico, Francine and Weinstein, Laurie (eds.). (1999). Gender Camouflage. Women and the U.S. Military. New York: New York University Press.
Laxton, S. (2009). “Flou”: Rayographs and the Dada Automatic. October, (127), 25-48.
Christina Marie Phelps has been practicing and teaching visual arts for over fifteen years, both in schools and in the community, and believes strongly in the value of play and collaboration as a tool for artistic expression. Her own practice is concerned with exercises in mixed media and ephemeral street art installations, drawing, painting, and light-based media. Awarded the Erin and Heather Humanitarian Award for her involvement in her community art programming, and the prestigious Art Education Prize at the June 2017 Convocation from Concordia, Christina Marie continues to inspire and create alongside students and youth participants in various Montreal schools, the Queens Creation annual showcase events, the annual Under Pressure Festival, and the Visual Arts Center. She is on the planning committee for a March 2018 McGill Healing Arts Jam concerning sexual assault and consent where she will be facilitating art activism workshops.