Challenging the Self to Redefine the Canon: ‘C&’ Conversation with Florine Démosthène

Démosthène’s contemporary take on the body – in the form of multi-media paintings and collages – represents otherworldly dystopian features and promotes the artist’s exploration of our divine spirit. Démosthène’s heroines criticize beauty canons through the narrative of her self-made feminine heroes. In this new body of work, the artist asks: “How do we connect to our inner essence? How do we connect to our ‘self,’ while disconnecting from stories and religions we have been taught?” Our author Magnus Rosengarten spoke to the artist about her work and in particular about how her own body functions as a role model.

Contemporary And: Your show currently up at Mariane Ibrahim in Chicago is titled “Between Actuality and Possibility”. What does this space between possibility and actuality look like? I am interested in how you perceive it.

Florine Démosthène: That space is the nebulous space of the unknown. When you are trying to figure out what you are and what you are made up of. It is the process of removing your social conditioning. Basically, that grey space of redefining and reforming yourself.

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Florine Démosthène, Possibility, 2019. Collage on paper (ink, mylar, pigment stick, graphite, and glitter) 38 x 50 Inches. Courtesy Mariane Ibrahim Gallery.

C&: I believe it certainly has the power to transport us to a dimension that is less dominated by social constructs. Is that how you hope for your work to be received?

FD: Yes, I think it would be good if art, music, and dance, or whatever creative avenue, would have the power to self-reflect.

C&: What stories are you telling in your work?

FD: I think storytelling is a very intricate part of my work. There is an implied narrative, it doesn’t have to necessarily be linear. But through the actual title of the work, there’s sort of a continuous conversation. Because it is oftentimes about me, people tend to read it as self-portraiture. It isn’t, though. I am using myself as a reference, as a point of departure. And maybe some aspects of my narrative, of my biography. The narrative aspect is definitely a great part of my work.

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Florine Démosthène, Before the Conflict, 2019. Collage on paper (ink, mylar, graphite, and glitter) 38 x 50 Inches. Courtesy Mariane Ibrahim Gallery.

C&: Is there a way for you to describe actualization, what could it look and feel like?

FD: It’s a highly individual experience. I call it being forged through the fire, and one has to go through that process. It is like a form of alchemy.

C&: Finally, the female figure is a motif in your oeuvre. What are you working through here? How does it help you endure the space between possibility and actualization?

FD: The female figure is something I have been using predominantly because it is readily available, meaning it is myself. I don’t have to pay myself and I am reliable. I want to challenge the ideas of how women are supposed to be a particular size, a particular look. What is supposed to be seen as feminine and beautiful? I wanted to get to a place where I make myself so uncomfortable using myself in my artwork, to get out of my comfort zone, that it has now become comfortable. It was first about challenging myself and then about pushing the idea of the feminine hero, but also about finally looking at the mental aspect of all this. It is from all three of these points that I have built my story.

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Florine Démosthène: Between Possibility and Actuality at Mariane Ibrahim in Chicago, USA, until 21 Dec 2019.

Florine Démosthène was born in the United States and raised between Port-au-Prince, Haiti and New York. She now resides between New York, Accra and Johannesburg. Démosthène earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Parsons the New School for Design in New York and her Master of Fine Arts from Hunter College-City University of New York.

Source: Magnus Elias Rosengarten for Contemporary And

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