Beautifully Created Feminist Images and Performance Art from Sheli Silverio and Miss Art World
Shoebox Projects, Los Angeles
Written by Genie Davis
Two solo exhibitions concluded at Shoebox Projects last month; an insightful artist’s talk adding creative knowledge to shows as diverse as they were meaningful.
In the main gallery, Los Angeles-based artist Sheli Silverio’s “Be A Lady” takes on the trope of what it means to be not just a woman, but a “lady” in our society. Based on familial expectations of lady-like behavior – ‘Sheli, be a lady’ is a phrase I heard a lot growing up,” Silverio relates. “I never felt like I knew what that meant exactly, but I did feel like I was often doing it wrong.”
Based on the paper doll as an art object and example of “appropriate femininity,” Silverio has created larger than life movable paper dolls that viewers could manipulate, and combine clothing items, add appendages, change faces.
“To some extent,” Silverio noted at the closing event, “The exhibition offers a look at becoming your parent; at what society expects of an adult woman.”
She adds “I wanted each object that I created to bring up more than one thought for viewers, such as period panties as perhaps a label for modern feminism.”
The full body of a doll allows many options. Her youthful face can be replaced with her mother’s, or a woman wearing a MAGA hat; a long purple engorged strap-on can be added.
“Just as paper dolls from my childhood were coded with messages about motherhood, domesticity, fashion and physical beauty, in . “Be A Lady” I use the paper doll as a means to explore the complex process of understanding personal identity within the confines of society’s idea of womanhood.”
She calls the beautifully painted water color dolls and their accessories “symbols of sexuality, vulnerability, confidence, intelligence, physicality and the process of resolving all the facets of one’s self.”
To manipulate the pieces, adhered to exhibition walls with magnets, viewers donned fancy white cotton and lace gloves. Silverio is looking at ways to replace the delicate tactile paper of the dolls with sturdier laminated or metal versions but in the meantime she is considering creating duplicate paper works to travel the show.
Also exhibited: a series of small, square canvas works with pastel backgrounds, that at first glance remind viewers of Georgia O’ Keefe’s floral images; upon closer inspection, they are flower-like watercolor images of the vulvas of Silverio’s friends. The friends provided intimate photos on which Silverio based her work.
An installation in the small Shoebox Projects’ Closet, a part of the Shed Collective, contained video footage of and a wall to wall doll-packed exhibit of performance artist Miss Art World’s New “Alterations.” The performance took place Jan. 6th.
The performance was documented and on display at the gallery. The small doll-filled closet offered varied dolls representing the secret world of “love dolls.” Designed to both literally and symbolically replace women, live dolls, Miss Art World says, “is objectification of women, but what I think is interesting is the view from a woman’s perspective, trying to … work through the concept of men using love dolls.” She adds “This performance resembles this struggle and attempts to alter the doll into something society understands.”
The LA-based performance artist, a beauty pageant winner, uses her contest experiences to inform her art. The performance video on display included images of doll “birth” and dismemberment. She notes that her art deals with the “unrealistic display of the ‘perfected’ physical form and the pressures to attain it. The subversive artist crowned herself Miss Art World and uses the title to question the dominating ideologies of beauty fused with society’s beauty obsession.
As always, work both provocative and fascinating marked these two January shows at Shoebox Projects.