From now until March 31, the University Art Gallery presents Marielle Plaisir’s No Color Lines. The Miami based artist uses her creative intuition to create works imagining a world free of prejudice and vice. Her art doesn’t stick to one medium, using an abundance of materials and canvases to connect her work to disturbing themes. She twists the meanings of negatively connotated objects and ideas in an effort to showcase them in a newer, more utopian light.
Born in the French Caribbean and raised in LeHavre and Guadeloupe, Plaisir said she’s always grown up questioning authority and feeling the desire to create art. She earned a Masters of Applied Arts from the University of Bordeaux and a graduate degree in art and scenography from the Honors Advanced School of Fine and Decorative Arts of Bordeaux. Her work can be found in a variety of art fairs and exhibitions across North America and Western Europe, including Untitled, featured in Miami Beach, London, and New York. Her work also appears in group exhibitions and public collections. Plaisir was awarded the Southern Prize and State Fellowship of Florida in 2021 and the Night New Work Award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Night Foundation in 2022. Beyond exhibitions, she also has her own luxury accessories company, Les Barbares Fashion. Through her prolific and geographically widespread collection, her work provides glimpses into a better world. She inspires viewers to contemplate a world free of hierarchy and division, in hopes her dreams may one day become reality.
On March 1 at 5 p.m. in Guerry Auditorium, Marielle Plaisir and Dr. Julian Ledford (professor of French and French Studies) presented an Artist’s Talk, allowing Plaisir an opportunity to provide in-depth explanations behind her work for the Sewanee community. Plaisir began the conversation by prefacing, “my identity is really part of the work,” and went on to present a variety of her collection. Her piece, “The dresses” was created in 2014 and exhibited in the Aquitaine Museum in France in 2014 and the Moca Museum in Miami in 2016 as her first solo show in the US. This amongst many other works “explores the concept of social domination” through her use of obscure materials and setting. When explaining the process of crafting this work she said, “It’s very important for me to find the most adequate medium and the most effective medium to intervene and convey my narrative.” Plaisir does not restrict herself to one form of expression. Instead, she allows herself to be guided by inspiration. Through the use of any resources she feels to be significant, Plaisir is able to adequately express the subject of the work. She explained “The dresses” as a “memorial work” made of loose material fashioned to represent different types of dresses, or different social classes. Each dress is crafted with tyvek paper, traditionally used to cover the roofing of houses. She purposefully crafted the dresses at different levels because, she explains, her goal was to “align different social wrongs at the same level.” She concluded the conversation of “The dresses” by commenting on the inspiration behind the work, “It was a way for me to define identity and consequently the notion of power.”
The University Art Gallery presented more of Plaisir’s work to be seen in person by the Sewanee community. Many of the works featured in the gallery are commentary on class division and social status. Her works feature materials such as sparkles, chains turned into jewelry, cushioning as frames, and light boxes illuminating the work they border. Plaisir takes issues of major social significance and twists them into a completely different, more optimistic narrative.
Gallery attendant Audrey Hoffman (C’26) explained the premise of Plaisir’s work. “There are a lot of ideas about race and the divisions we’ve made and she imagines a world where these divisions do not exist. You see a lot of exhibits where people are put at the same level where they historically have not been.”
In one of her backlit works, she features Miles Davis, an American jazz musician, and a white man of status presented at the same level, surrounded by out-of-place plants and animals, accented with dreamlike colors and chains hanging from the top of the canvas. This work in its entirety creates a dreamy, obscure state where inequality diminishes. The depth created by the distant mountains in the background and the palm leaves framing the subjects invites the viewer to fall into this dream alongside Plaisir and enjoy a perfect utopia.
Marielle Plaisir’s work will continue to be featured in the University Art Gallery to the right of Guerry Auditorium until March 31.