MAIN SPACE EXHIBITION
FEBRUARY 4 – FEBRUARY 26, 2000
RECEPTION: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2000 AT 8 PM
ARTIST TALK: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2000 AT 2 PM
LOCATION – STRIDE GALLERY
722, 11 AVE S.W, CALGARY, ALBERTA
Dee Fontans’ work is concerned with the female figure and body as an interactive context for garment design and performance. Her current project, Outing the Body, involves video, performance, jewelry and garment design. Dee is especially concerned with developing public awareness of self esteem in women and students of all ages. Dee has given numerous workshops and performances in fashion shows, benefit events, and Calgary junior and high schools. This exhibition included a series of life-sized digital prints of men and women modeling Fontans’ outfits and accessories, and a selection from her garment collection. At the opening reception there was a performance of her designs in motion, entitled Dee Does Dada.
DEE FONTANS is an Alberta based artist with Puerto Rican heritage that has been working in Calgary for the past 10 years. Fontans’ practice is wide ranging and is internationally recognized from her performances, fashion and jewelry designs. Dee has been an instructor at the Alberta College of Art and Design since 1991, where she continues to influence and instruct artists of all ages.
DEE FONTANS, OUTING THE BODY, RECENT WORKS
When I was in high school four boys in one of my classes presented a skit of part of Lord of the
Flies; they armed themselves with spears and and wore only cutoff shorts in order to look the part. Their performance was not memorable, but their costumes were–the boys, bare chested, had covered their nipples with masking tape. One of them half-jokingly explained to me that male nipples were just as erogenous as women’s nipples and that he did not want to offend anyone by
exposing himself. He had covered them with masking tape crosses in order to drive away impure thoughts, knowing that this act would only draw more attention to the nipples hidden beneath.
Dee Fontans’ work differs intensely from the pubescent theatrics of my high school classmates; Dee’s performances are always memorable and although her projects are outrageous and admittedly self-indulgent they are neither ridiculous nor pointless. There is one similarity, however: in Dee’s latest collection, Man Abreast, the nipple is what gets the audience’s attention. Dee exposes the male nipple within a geometric opening in her shirts, thus illustrating the universality of both images.
Although Dee understands the shock value of these pieces, she does not create them purely to titillate. She naturally associates the nipple with the nurturing act of breast feeding. Rather than concentrating on what separates the sexes, Dee views the nipple as a shared bonding point. By forcing attention to the male nipple, she wants to show that men are not all power hungry monsters but can be “nurturing, loving human beings.” Dee believes that understanding cannot be brought by looking at what sets us apart but at what brings us together: “Why are
we looking at differences–why not look at the similarities?”
Dee’s concepts are constantly evolving while sincerely reflecting her sense of pride in her heritage, her Puerto Rican descent, and nostalgia for her period of self and body-discovery as a youth. Her own body is the focus of much of her corpus of work, but the vision expands to include other women and, ultimately, men. Her collections show a remarkable break from the traditional treatment of the female form, where women both in art and in life were to be captured by a male lens and viewed by a male audience. Unfortunately these attitudes have continued prevalence in our culture; in a patriarchal society emphasis is placed on the ideal–not the real–woman. Dee does not cage anything or anyone in–she frees the female form by creating clothes that
celebrate rather than constrict.