Meet the Others: Rachael McArthur
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Rachael McArthur is a lens based artist currently living in Brooklyn, New York. Her work involves performance, video, sculpture and her alter ego Blanche Dumont. Read on to find out more about her inspiration and what drives her unique practice.
Do you remember your first experience with a camera and if so can you tell us about it? What about your primary medium do you love the most?
I think my story is just like any other artist nothing special, I became interested in photography when I was in high school, working for the yearbook and running the photo club after school. My Dad used to take me out to abandoned houses to photograph these places (photos were terrible and basic). I started to dress up with my friends and we would take pictures in my rooms and write song lyrics on our bodies (cringe) and wear the most ridiculous things we could find in my mother’s closet. When I then went to the Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto, photography became my tool to create whatever I wanted.
What I primarily love about photography is the ability to create something I don’t find in real life, I can make my own characters, spaces, props and themes. For me, photography allows you make something different than just taking a photo of a landscape, building or something that has been shot a million times. I get to create my own little worlds.
Your images all contain a strong female focus, could you tell us a little bit more about the other themes you explore in your work?
I work with the themes of fantasy, femininity and sexuality. For so long women have been told to hide their sexual desires, needs and wants, and in my work I celebrate all the ways my sexuality is constantly evolving. In my work I create a fantasy world where self exploitation becomes my empowerment. I have taken back my power to define myself as a sexually liberated woman within the kink/BDSM community.
In my work, I fight against the notion that I am an object created solely for men, to entertain them and for them to consume. I am bothered by the idea that when men explore their sexuality there is never any stigma attached but when women do they come with labels. I use my series Hot Dreams to celebrate my own sexuality identity while enacting ownership over my body and experiences. Through the use of role play and kink I am challenging my femininity as I switch between dominant and submissive. I use the love hotels in my work to act as a vehicle to explore my fantasies. These spaces are promoted as somewhere to explore your desires, filled with kitschy over the top decorations to aid in those fantasies. Most of the these hotels are hidden off the highway, in smaller towns and are attached with a stigma. That stigma is a reflection of the ways we push down our sexual desires and are told to constantly keep them hidden. You can explore your fantasy here but you have to pull off the highway in the middle of nowhere to find them.
Can you talk a bit about your alter ego Blanche Dumont and how she came to be?
Blanche Dumont is my alter ego. She is created from the female masking community, which is a fetish consisting of mainly men using silicone female body parts to create new sexual identities/ versions of themselves. These men found their own empowerment through the sculpted female bodies and I wanted to explore what that meant. Blanche is navigating how her female body fits in with the perfectly sculpted versions of the female body the maskers wear. Using her face gives me ownership over my own body.
Which movements have inspired or influenced your work?
There isn’t a specific movement that has inspired/influenced my work but here are a little list of artists or things that do:
Diva pop stars
How do you decide on a colour palette for your images?
Choosing a colour palette usually depends on the rooms I chose to shoot in. I travelled to 31 cities in the United States looking for these rooms and would find each space online ahead of time, choose which room I wanted and based my palette around that. I searched for the most outlandish rooms I could find and went from there. I went through various thrift stores, costume stores and sex stores to find the outfits to match each room.
What are you currently working on and what can we look forward to seeing next?
I am currently working a series of peep holes where the viewer can look into each space and become a voyeur into my little worlds. Each one is constructed in my studio and fits a specific colour palette. There are also some large scale photo sculptures I am working on as well.
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