…and so beautiful The story of Anne de Cybelle and her hairdresses can be downloaded here as a pdf, 1995
and so beautiful again……, catalogue essay by Claire Christie for exhibition at Open Studio, Toronto, 2005
In 1990, artist Chrysanne Stathacos staged the premiere exhibition of her hairdresses, and first uttered the name Anne de Cybelle, a name that has since become indissoluble from her own. Fifteen years hence, the hairdresses maintain their potency and map the genesis of the considerable body of printed works that followed. While her approach to printmaking is largely unconventional in its application, Stathacos exploits its most basic and traditional aspect: the creation of an imprint or trace, a ‘history’. This marking of time is engendered on many levels within the works presented here, most notably in the mechanism of historical corollary. Stathacos deepens the connection to time by fleshing out a continuum, situating her work within a particular trajectory, and engaging notions of sensuality, sexuality, feminism and femininity along the way.
Chrysanne Stathacos has consistently used organic material – hair, roses, ivy – as a print medium, imbuing her work with an immediacy suggestive of the body, and specifically the female body. During the process of printing, as this original matter leaves its physical residue in evidence, so does the material’s symbolism attach to the work, and Stathacos coaxes both the layering of imagery and the accumulating referents. Inking tufts of cropped human hair (often her own), and pulling it through a press in combination with artist’s linen or canvas, Stathacos generates lengths of elaborately patterned textile that she then fashions into elegant gowns. Hair itself is a powerful sign, evocative of impulses such as sensuality, taboo, fetish, seduction, power, and memory. Sensually resplendent, the dresses convey an unapologetic transgression by essentially covering the female body with hair, refuting conformity to a fetishized ideal. There is an inherent rebelliousness to the works, as they engage on the level of proclamation. Taking form as fashion, the works borrow from that system’s infrastructure by exteriorizing desire, creating an isolated channel between wearer and world upon which to communicate a message. “It is clothing which gives the body its relief, and for this reason, it must be considered an advantage, in the sense that it protects us from direct view of what, as sentience, is devoid of signification.” (Hegel, Esthetique, 1944) Trailing wisps, defiant clumps and swirling tendrils suffuse the surface of these sculptural hairdresses, and whisper secret entreaties.
The character of Anne de Cybelle provides the blueprint for their construction. Stathacos telescopes back to the 19th century to find her working in a time that marginalized its women artists, eclipsing their future stake as historically relevant. Anne de Cybelle railed against the establishment, gaining notoriety by making spectacular dresses from the materials readily available (her own locks and scavenged canvas) and upstaging her male counterparts. Though clearly not the guilt-inspired hair shirts of the Middle Ages, Anne de Cybelle’s hairdresses did have an investment in an economy of shame, serving to decry the patriarchy for its oppressive practices. With homage as her primary tool, Stathacos sets out to correct history’s misdeed by faithfully recreating Anne de Cybelle’s intricate dresses and holding them up as triumphant icons of female ingenuity.
It turns out, though, that Anne de Cybelle is a fictive heroine, conjured by Stathacos as a connective thread to an unarticulated past. Certainly, legions of female artists were orphaned by history, and in a bold, feminist stroke, Stathacos felt compelled to give them a name, and to imagine how they may have navigated their way through a time less receptive to the contributions of women artists. The venerable Winston Churchill once remarked, “History shall be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Perhaps Chrysanne Stathacos keenly sensed a broader opportunity.
and so beautiful at Lombard-Freid Fine Arts, by Susan Harris, Art in America, 1995
Chrysanne Stathacos’s display “… and so beautiful,” was a compound installation of small photocollages and wall-sized expanses of handprinted canvas that intelligently be opposite toed contemporary gender issues through a veil of nostalgia.
In the main gallery, Stathacos at handed Evolve Dissolve II–a large hair-printed fabric with peephole from one side which could be viewed remnants of her previous performances and installations (a mirror, a light, a photo, a video). Other works in the present to view included series of photocollages that busy reproductions of 19th-century daguerreotypes which the artist has hand-tinted and variously embellished with dried flowers, burnt tarot cards or woven fabric Stathacos used a 25-foot rose-printed canvas as the backdrop for “The Roses”–11 framed photocollages of seductively pos female uncovereds whose private parts are overlayed with printed cloth and dried flowers. Three “Boy Roses’ which were hanging upon a blank wall, feature classically pos unclothed boys with coyly placed dried roses
The romantic spirit that pervaded the exhibition was sometimes personified in the fictive 19th-century artist Anne de Cybelle, Stathacos’s invented alter me Stathacos has been working from one side the persona of de Cybelle since 1990 to examine and reconfigure the patriarchal history of art. De Cybelle’s “diaries” not away her as one of the not many women attending the Ecole de Beaux-Arts in Paris. According to Stathacos’s fictional biography, de Cybelle’s work–dresses made with linen canvases stolen from her male matchs on which she printed shorn hair, rose and ivy–was denied the recognition accorded to that of the male artists. In fact, the persona of de Cybelle, whose name is a play upon “so beautiful” in French, evolve from Stathacos’s hold use of these very materials. Stathacos inks the external realitys or substances to be imprinted, and then places them inside a pen ed piece of canvas which is move swiftly through a printing press. The be the effect is a symmetrical lyricism of color and imagery.
Card sweep in an adjacent space, featured coffee-tinted photocollages of adolescent nudes with burnt tarot cards. They were hung upon a 27-foot printed canvas that was originally the tablecloth for a Dionysian happening called The Banquet (a 1992 collaboration between Stathacos and huntsman Reynolds, an artist known for his performances in drag). The canvas maintains traces of coiled, bunched and tangled hair from its original printing, rose-blood from a next to the first printing and food stains from The Banquet. The size and seemingly gestural quality of this recycl wall-piece, like a great deal of of Stathacos’s work, mocks the macho heroicism of Abstract-Expressionist painting while proclaiming the female nearness through its use of materials with feminine associations. As a gross amount of its parts, “… and for a like reason beautiful” resonates with poetry, wit and mythology.
The hairdresses and spirit of Anne de Cybelle have been exhibited at :
and so beautiful (again) 1990-2004, Open Studio, Toronto, Canada, 2005
Chez Anne, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, 1994
1852- 2063, Gallery TPW, Toronto, 1997
Ada or Ardor, Nature Morte New Delhi, New Delhi, India,1998
and so beautiful…Lombard Freid Fine Arts, New York, 1995
The Art of Seduction, Michael Wewerka Gallery, Berlin, 1996
Rose Wishes, India International Center, New Delhi, India, 1999
A Rose and a Hair, Onassis Center, New York University, N.Y., 1995
Crossing Over/Changing Places, Corcoran Gallery of Art, (traveling exhibition), 1997
Wallflower, Randolph Street Gallery, Chicago, 1995
Sacred Comedies, Castellani Museum, Niagara Falls, 1992
Hair, Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, Wisconson, 1992
Dress Codes, I.C.A., Boston, MA, 1992
Fall From Fashion, The Aldridge Museum, Ridgefield, CT, 1992
Love Again, Kunstraum Elbschloss, Hamburg, Germany, 1996
The Banquet, Thread Waxing Space, New York, 1992
Pop Pop Pop, Garnet Press Gallery, Toronto, 1992
Selections from the Permanent Collection, The Cambridge Art Gallery, Cambridge, Ontario, 1991