Michelle Lacombe

Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre
  • Michelle Lacombe, The Venus Landscape, documentation, 2010.
  • Michelle Lacombe, The Venus Landscape, 2010.
  • Michelle Lacombe, Of all the watery bodies, I only know my own, portrait, 2013-2014.
  • Michelle Lacombe, Of All the Watery Bodies, I only know my own, documentation, 2013-2014.
  • Michelle Lacombe, Italics; Underlining for emphasis, documentation, 2012.
  • Michelle Lacombe, Italics; Underlining for emphasis, portrait, 2012.
  • Michelle Lacombe, Portrait of a Self Memorial and an Anonymous Aesthetic Beheading, documentation, 2012.
  • Michelle Lacombe, Portrait of a Self Memorial and an Anonymous Aesthetic Beheading, portraits, 2012.

Reading a Body

Michelle Lacombe turns her body into a palimpsest for us to decode, mingling constructed and natural signs and generating a complex image of the tensions traversing it. Each of her works comes about in two moments. The first is the work’s production and presentation, focusing on an issue conveyed by the media and art history, which generate an exterior view of the woman. The second is everyday lived experience, in which bodily signs endure, accumulate, recontextualize one another. Lacombe embodies both perspectives simultaneously; her body, a field of struggle, testifies to this.

Revisiting the historical modes of representation of women through the deconstruction of Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus (1510), Lacombe stands in for the main subject of the scene in The Venus Landscape (2010). The work consists of lines tattooed on her body that serve as guides to the prescribed pose of a reclining, wanton Venus offered up to desiring eyes. The artist denies the prescription by fragmenting her posture in everyday actions, the drawn lines never joining up to render a coherent image of their reference. Nor does she shy away from the tropes associated with women or fear falling into stereotypes: in dealing with maternity, the menstrual cycle, and women’s kinship with nature, her project Of all the watery bodies, I only know my own (2013–16) is an occasion to reflect on the body’s erosion through the monthly loss of its reproductive potential. No longer situated in the landscape, her body becomes the landscape, a terrain that wears down over time, with every cycle.

The voice of women, often devalued, lies at the heart of Italics; Underlining for emphasis (2010 and 2015), which indeed underlines Lacombe’s voice with an invisible line etched inside her lower lip, symbolically marking her agency. She strives for the same goal in all her work: to reveal and explode the barriers that restrain her field of action as she confronts the complexities and nuances inherent to her research.

Translated from the French by Ron Ross

Captions
Image 1: Michelle Lacombe, The Venus Landscape, documentation, 2010. Photo: Lorna Bauer, tattoist: Emilie Roby, courtesy of the artist
Image 2: Michelle Lacombe, The Venus Landscape, 2010. Photo: Lorna Bauer, tattoist: Emilie Roby, courtesy of the artist
Image 3: Michelle Lacombe, Of all the watery bodies, I only know my own, portrait, 2013-2014. Photo: Sara A.Tremblay, tattoist: Azl Golanski, courtesy of the artist
Image 4: Michelle Lacombe, Of all the watery bodies, I only know my own, documentation, 2013-2014. Photo: Sara A.Tremblay, tattoist: Azl Golanski, courtesy of the artist
Image 5: Michelle Lacombe, Italics; Underlining for emphasis, documentation, 2012. Photo: Christian Bujold, tattoist: Dominique Bodkin, courtesy of the artist
Image 6: Michelle Lacombe, Italics; Underlining for emphasis, portrait, 2012. Photo: Christian Bujold, tattoist: Dominique Bodkin, courtesy of the artist
Image 7: Michelle Lacombe, Portrait of a Self Memorial and an Anonymous Aesthetic Beheading, documentation, 2012. Photo: Rémi Thériault, scarification: Azl Golanski, courtesy of the artist
Images 8 and 9: Michelle Lacombe, Portrait of a Self Memorial and an Anonymous Aesthetic Beheading, portraits, 2012. Photos: Rémi Thériault, scarification: Azl Golanski, courtesy of the artist

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