Artist Discussion with Artist Marielle Plaisir and Independent Curator Tosha Grantham
By Carmen Smith
Marielle Plaisir presents Solo Show, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” at Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, Hollywood, FL until Sunday, May 14, 2023.
Plaisir’s solo exhibition at Art and Culture Center of Hollywood (ACCH) rests on deep teal blue walls in a small, intimate gallery adjacent the Center’s main gallery. A focal point of her exhibit, “The Doll,” provoked lively discussion during her Artist talk on Saturday February 25, 2023.
“The Doll,” 2022, captures the spirit of Plaisir’s Backlit series, consisting of heavily saturated and and lavishly framed works that present densely layered compositions of collaged elements. Backlits feature the figure of a personality who fought against racial domination including Josephine Baker, Ruby Bridges, Miles Davis, and Muhammad Ali. Secondary figures accompany focal personalities, reappropriated from European 17th- and 18th-century paintings. Backlits typically combine intricately layered botanical imagery of lush foliage above, below, and around figures.
In “The Doll,” Plaisir builds a narrative utilizing formal elements of composition, color, and texture. “The Doll” places a main figure, a black female child, in the foreground. A white male youth emerges in the background to her left. Plaisir describes “The Doll” as her reaction to a story about black children being referenced as “ugly,” which deeply impacted her and motivated her to right the wrong narrative it spread.
The greyscale rendered child separates visually from the rest of the imagery, which boasts boldly saturated color. This color choice heated the guest discussion at ACCH, as attendees expressed differering viewpoints regarding the role of her monochrome figure. Varying ideas led viewers toward a robust appreciation for the role this artwork assumes in social discourse, a goal of the artist.
The young male figure emerging from thick flora in the background suggests colonial initiatives, while the young black child expresses a look of mistrust as she glances toward the boy. She holds a contrastingly bright magenta baby doll in her left hand. Plaisir placed the doll to question who gets to play with dolls. Its over-saturated magenta pink surface points to purple as suggesting royalty. A chain of beads flows from the pink doll. While beautiful, they suggest a chain the child is perhaps unaware of carrying.
Backlits adjacent “The Doll” include imagery of invasive species, which at first glance appear beautiful yet pose a meaningful hypothesis. They illustrate a phenomenon occurring across South Florida, where non-native species manipulate the biosphere. Pythons, iguanas, Green parrots, and monstera leaf invade the ecosystem, parallel to social orders and hierarchies we accept, but demand deeper examination.
Plaisir’s work commits to expose injustices we are witnessing in the world; and she believes even a small expression of artwork can stimulate change. Marielle Plaisir is a French-Caribbean multi-media artist currently living in the United States. Her artwork examines the concept of social domination and explores issues of colonialism, race, and class. She works in a range of media including painting, sculpture, photography, installation, film, and performance. She presented work in the 2021 Florida Prize show at the Orlando Museum of Art.
Independent Curator Tosha Grantham joined Marielle Plaisir for an artist-led discussion of her work on view in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” Tosha Grantham is a former Assistant Curator at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA. She served as the Director of Second Street Gallery in Charlottesville, VA. She taught Art History at FIU and serves as a valuable voice in the contemporary arts.
This article was originally written by Carmen Smith for Gallery Guides/xzib.com and syndicated on to Choose954.com with permission of the author.
For more information on the exhibit currently on display at the Hollywood Art & Culture Center in the adjacent gallery to MARIELLE PLAISIR's "The unbearable lightness of being" - log on to the latest episode of our Choose954 Podcast with Oolite Resident Artist Matt Forehand to find out more about his "They are known through conversation" exhibit. (https://youtu.be/0JS0E8TGSyY)