In 1975, film critic Laura Mulvey coined the term ‘the male gaze’. It refers to the presentation of women in visual arts and literature from a male, heterosexual perspective where women are depicted as sexual objects for the pleasure of the male viewer. Men have agency; women are passive and dehumanized.
This male gaze is often brought to light in Feminist art, as artists attempt to express this imbalance of power between male and female from their own unique perspective. You might be surprised to learn that Feminist artists can also be men, bringing their own artistic slant to the subject. Mural art is an interesting canvas for this exchange, and Montreal murals will soon be part of the conversation.
Murals are an iconic part of the Montreal art scene and for good reason. Murals are a powerful medium for Montreal artists who want to share their vision and creations with the public, and Feminist Art will be taking centre stage in MURALFest, an annual Montreal art event celebrating graffiti.
Artists like Stikki Peaches and Sandra Chevrier have showcased their works over the years. While both artists have a similar style and flair, they have very unique takes on the subjects they choose in their artistic creations.
Satirical and ironic, Stikki Peaches’ works will likely leave you feeling nostalgic. He uses mythical characters, political leaders, and cultural icons like Batman, Elvis Presley and Mozart who coexist on the canvas, creating a startling juxtaposition of themes. The characters are layered under scraps of words, chunks of comic books pages and other materials to create vibrant, colourful creations.
Stikki is originally from Montreal; his father is a tailor and his mother is a designer, so Stikki Peaches’ first creative explorations were inspired by fashion design. His style is rooted in this spirit of reusing and recycling, where a myriad of techniques are combined to craft his impressively layered, post-modern canvases.
Many of his subjects are iconic women of the 20th century, often in seductive or classically feminine poses. They are reimagined, layered with symbols or half-concealed by a mish-mash of components.
Stikki Peaches is known for his pop culture-inspired, mixed-media mash-ups.
Sandra Chevrier, another Montréal-based Canadian pop artist, is known for her captivating portraits of women. Chevrier was born in 1983 and first fell in love with art as a kid. At first, Sandra’s focus was drawn to the female gaze, and she drew sketches of eyes, calling herself a “gaze collector”. This obsession with eyes is still central in her present work.
When she paints, the artist starts drawing the eyes of her female characters, drawing to the surface their emotions and sensibility. Then, she adds layers of comic book scraps and other paraphernalia from the superheroes’ world on their faces, partially obscuring their faces like a mask and hiding their feelings and flaws.
In this way, Chevrier’s portraits reveal the opposing forces of power and fragility, freedom and captivity as well as reality and imagination. Women are depicted as being torn between the fantastical heroines of comic books and the oppressed female identity.
Sandra Chevrier chooses to highlight the fragility of the superhero, their struggles and weaknesses, and exposes the humanity within the superhuman.
Sandra Chevrier and Stikki Peaches murals can be found around Montreal, so make sure to look around art-lovers! Take a moment to contemplate and appreciate the artists’ perspective on the male gaze.