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Cover Image of A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews published by Counterpoint Press
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Holly Marie Armishaw: Photographer

abstract:If you missed Holly Marie Armishaw's photo composite exhibit "The Guilded Life" at the Back Gallery Project in Vancouver last month you can catch up on this talented Canadian artist's work here. Captivated by the image left, I was intrigued to learn more about Armishaw, her oeuvre and her technique. If you admire the self-portrait work of Diane Arbus, you'll like this. Since there's a strong historical research and literary connection with a video of the artist (below) explaining her work to accompany the piece, this article fits our BookBuffet podcast interview segment. Of note, New Materials Art Fair (Miami Beach) has just announced Holly Marie Armishaw as the winner of the Solo Artist International Competition. So her work will be travelling Dec 6-7th to Miami where Art Basel-Miami takes place.

Let's start with Holly's artistic statement. She makes a new one for each new project so that it will be pertinent to the work. French art critic Jean-Francois Lyotard writes in his essay, What is Post-Modernism? "It must be clear that it is our business not to supply reality, but to invent allusions to the conceivable, which cannot be presented.”

The two defining aspects to this series are: a heavy use of photoshop to portray a "visual hypothesis" and the use of self-portrature to literally place herself within the realm of subject and tableau. Each one of the pieces in the show is a self portrait of Armishaw heavily photoshopped in a pose to retrospectively fit a previously photographed period gown, to which the figure is then placed into its scene—a previously photographed interior or exterior space of the Chateau Versailles, which she shot on location while composing this series. That is some amount of work! And Armishaw uses her interpretations of research to back


November 02, 2013
— up her staged illusions to forward the view that Antoinette was a pubescent victim. In the arranged marriage attempting to link the fortunes and power of Austria to France, she became a scapegoat for the ills of French governance, suffered under the misogyny and political debauchery of the times that lead to the French Revolution and her own death. Armishaw's work presents a counter opinion to that pop personae and propaganda of Antoinette as an extravagant royal, detached from the world around her and obsessed with trivialities such as fashion and personal excess. Armishaw points to Antoinette's lesser known virtues and qualities that were developing by such Enlightenment author-philosophers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In the video below you'll see some political cartoons circulated at the time that demonstrate this public distain in quite perverse and anti-Austrian, misogynistic depictions. Her resulting photo series are meant to demonstrate key periods of anguish experienced by the queen: the pressure to conceive, the death of her infant, the isolation and criticisms, as political and social scapegoat.

Further Links

  • Holly Maire Armishaw's website
  • The Biography Channel
  • Wikipedia listing
  • Smithsonian Magazine feature article
  • Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser (544 pgs published by Anchor) A very good read combining facts and story by a distinguished biographer.
  • Marie Antoinette, the full feature film (2006) by Sophia Coppola starring Kirsten Dunst. While not critically lauded the film is slanted to appeal to the Facebook generation's views of celebrity, as a fashion icon within history.


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