QUÉBEC CITY, June 19, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ - From June 20 until September 15, Musée de la civilisation presents Soft Shells. Photographs by Libby Oliver, an exhibition dedicated to an ongoing photo series by Canadian visual artist Libby Oliver.
In Soft Shells, the Victoria, British Columbia native catalogues people from all walks of life wrapped in their clothes, sculpting shells around her subjects and capturing them in this unique portrait series that explores the relationship between appearance and self. The series illustrates the whole social and identity‑driven dimensions of clothing and, by the same stroke, the issue of its overconsumption. For this exhibition, fifteen portraits were selected from the Soft Shells series and five new ones were added during a one‑month artist's residency at the museum.
Participants in the Soft Shells project are selected by Libby Oliver for their social, ethnic, and cultural diversity. The artist wraps participants in every article of clothing they possess, shaping the clothes into a shell in what becomes a fascinating and colorful montage—like a living sculpture. Glimpses of a hand, a foot, an eye or a small bit of body peeking out of the pile remind us there's a person under all those clothes. Oliver's creations elicit a strange feeling in the viewer, calling into question the role of clothing, what it reveals about us, and how it influences our relationship with the world and consumer culture.
For the Soft Shells exhibition, Oliver photographed five new people: multidisciplinary Wendat artist Teharihulen Michel Savard, student Camille Pelletier, singer‑songwriter Safia Nolin, and Christiane Garant, a fashion designer for Québec City label Myco Anna. Fashion designer Jean-Claude Poitras also accepted the invitation to be cocooned by Libby Oliver. The result can be seen in an exhibition dedicated to his work, Jean-Claude Poitras: Fashion and Inspiration, which runs alongside Soft Shells at Musée de la civilisation.
"Libby Oliver's approach is fascinating. One is immediately struck by the depth of her process, which brings you to reflect on the way we present ourselves to the world, on our choices and influences, and on the issue of gross overconsumption as a product of our material culture. Ultimately, it's a reflection on sustainable development, which is the theme running through all of our summer exhibitions."
Stéphan La Roche, Executive Director, Musée de la civilisation
"By observing someone presented this way, indiscernible amid layers of their own clothes, the environmental, cultural, and stylistic choices that define the person cease to exist. When you see someone literally buried in their own clothes, you realize just how much they're a means of social communication and how objects shape our understanding of other people. There's a real paradox there, in the way clothes reveal and conceal who we are."
Libby Oliver, Visual Artist
"I loved Libby. It was a pretty profound experience, to let someone in like that who's a stranger but also a major artist. It's really weird to be inside the Soft Shell, to be hot and anxious, but also sleepy. And from the outside, it's such a beautiful and powerful image."
Safia Nolin, Singer‑Songwriter
"Libby's approach, which is both bold and intimate, made me feel loved and respected. These clothes are a part of me. They've been with me my whole life. I didn't feel like I was disappearing under all those outfits from my past and present. Instead I felt dressed, as though I were wearing and embodying my life's journey. Being wrapped up and caressed by all those clothes and seen by someone else that way, I came to realize that my life has been a long and tumultuous river."
Jean-Claude Poitras, Fashion Designer
"Letting someone into your closet is a pretty intrusive experience; it pushed me to get rid of some things. I only wanted to be photographed with things that truly represent me, things that still move me and that I still find beautiful. The exercise makes you realize that you own a lot of clothes and that you get emotionally attached to some and can't part with them, even if you haven't worn them in a while. Since most of my clothes are Myco Anna creations, it's a very symbolic portrait, coming as it does just a few months after I shut down the business I dedicated the last 20 years of my life to. I fell in love with these innovative, colorful pieces many years ago and I'll still be wearing them with pride many years from now. I'd like to thank Libby and the Museum team for giving me the opportunity, the gift of this wonderful experience."
Christiane Garant, Designer, Myco Anna
"I liked this experience. It was like a sculptural performance; I was just there to hang things on. It was a performance where I didn't have any control. I don't quite know how to describe it, but being dressed like that, so softly and with the kind of tenderness and care that Libby shows, was a really nice physical feeling. Kind of like a mother looking after her child. But the minute my head and face were wrapped up, oh my gosh, I started to panic. My breathing sped up and my heart starting racing. All those feelings of tenderness disappeared. Like I said to Libby, I'd rather be naked than dressed."
Teharihulen Michel Savard, Multidisciplinary Wendat artist
"During the experience, I felt comfortable and even good in all my clothes, but having them all on me at once also made me feel a little trapped. I realized that I actually have a lot of clothes, even too many. There's no sense in having so many clothes for one person. I feel a little guilty about it, for the planet. I'm going to try to make more of an effort."
Camille Pelletier, Student
SOURCE Musée de la civilisation