Messager's attitude towards artmaking is inclusive and nonhierarchical, and she incorporates a wide array of materials to create her works: photographs (her own and those of others), paint, metal, found objects, colored pencils, books, embroidery, crayons, toys, taxidermized animals. Her approach does not follow established hierarchies; instead, she deliberately employs disregarded and devalued means such as embroidery and the use of found objects to direct our attention away from the rules of artmaking. In using non-art methods she attempts to recover some status for ordinary household arts. Her promiscuous co-opting of materials and methods draws real life into her works and blurs the line that divides art and everyday existence.
Messager's sources are as varied as her materials. She mixes high and low forms of art with the quotidian: eighteenth-century French literature, newspapers, how-to books, popular magazines, religious manuscripts, Surrealism, astrology, Jean Genet, Alfred Hitchcock, Symbolism, art brut, Odilon Redon, Sol LeWitt, René Magritte. Messager uses irony to subvert the original meanings of her sources, drawing their imagery and methods into a dialogue about artistic intentions and aspirations. Her mixing of personal story and history, of rarefied, historically important art and ordinary, practical activities, of skilled renderings and crude imagery, allows everything an alternative existence. Her mix challenges traditional definitions and celebrates the creative imagination that crosses all boundaries. Messager moves away from stereotypes and archetypes by conjuring up a mélange, a carnival of the horrible and the beautifully combined in compelling spectacle.
Image above: a selection of the artist's albums (1971-74).
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