Jul 9 2020 - Jul 9 2020

Not Dior’s New “Look”


The Contemporary Art Modern Project is pleased to present... Not Dior’s New “Look,” an online exclusive exhibition featuring artists Emma Coyle and Vicky Martin.
Paris, 10 a.m., 1947. The House of Christian Dior presents its first-ever collection, a collection that would change fashion history forever. From 30 Avenue Montagne to the world, the initially titled Corolle collection featured rounded shoulders, full skirts, a cinched waist, and padded hips, an unorthodox silhouette for the times, a silhouette that accentuated femininity rather than functionality. Later labeled the New Look by the American press, Dior’s collection at its core was a symbol of social rebellion by the designer. During the post-war period, fashion was not a focus, female fashion was all about practicality and monotony, made to serve a purpose and nothing else, resulting in boxy, masculine shapes, devoid of any grace. By contrast, Dior’s New Look encouraged female self-expression, it represented ownership of personal identity and femininity. But as history would have it, not everyone would agree with this.
Dior’s fashion revolution was not met without resistance, especially by the feminist of the time. The New Look was often referred to as wasteful, a distinction only aggravated by the ludicrous cost of the same, being inaccessible to the everyday woman. The idea of Dior’s haute couture pieces, each made from enough fabric to create ten simpler garments, was almost an insult to the working class in a post-war society. Furthermore, it is often argued that women’s fashion saw a return to hyper-focusing on female sexuality through the New Look. Australian fashion historian Margaret Maynard has been a vocal proponent of the idea that the New Look encourages post-wartime outdated sentiments of gender roles that sought to return women to housewife status. Fellow Australian fashion historian Peter McNeil also argued that the silhouettes proposed by Dior appealed to outdated standards of female beauty, such as the illusion of an unrealistic hourglass figure achieved through the padding, setting all focus on the sexualization of women, as well as their reproductive capabilities. There are many arguments to be made for and against Dior’s polarizing masterpiece, but one fact is certain, it made an everlasting impact in the evolution of fashion for years to come.
For the purpose of this show, The Contemporary Art Modern Project maintains an impartial position towards Dior’s New Look, presenting instead Not Dior’s New “Look,” a show that at its core celebrates fashion history represented by strong female characters that demand attention but don’t give it away.

About the Artists

Irish-born artist Emma Coyle employs the style of traditional pop art to represent contemporary fashion photography with a vintage twist. The artist takes inspiration from contemporary fashion magazines that she thoroughly researches for long periods of time, carefully planning and pre-drawing all of her paintings before picking up a brush. Coyle’s work is technically impeccable and naturally seductive due to the nature of the same. The focus of her process being on strong lines and bright colors, turning a minimalist approach into a visual manifest of delicately conceptualized work. The artist’s signature style has developed over the years from inspirations that go beyond the realm of pop art, namely Pablo Picasso’s and Henri Matisse’s line drawings. An interesting nuance of her work being the lack of focus in the subject’s eyes, be they hidden by large shades or lacking sclera, creating an illusion of emptiness, Coyle’s woman will rarely focus her attention on the viewer. However, her subjects of choice exude pride, femininity, and personality, all intermixed to create a visual statement of strength and femalehood.
Vicky Martin marries her whimsical aesthetic with her editorial eye to construct narratives that are as intriguing as they are beautiful. The British artist’s Not in Kansas series features scenarios that blur the boundaries between fantasy and truth. Her subject, inspired by Dorothy from Frank L. Baum’s Wizard of Oz, battles the fear of isolation while remaining a confident and bold woman. A woman who exudes strength, independence, determination, but is also vulnerable to the elements that surround her. A world where she does not belong, an ever-changing world that keeps her at bay, a clever metaphor for women’s historical fight for their place in society. Accompanying these works is her Selfhood series, inspired by the proverb “the eyes are the window to the soul.” Martin features distinctive eccentric subjects all with one thing in common—notorious concealment of their eyes. By impeding the viewer to observe the eyes of her subjects, the artist severs the intimate connection between observer and object of observation, impeding her woman to be reduced to an object of pleasure, forcing her audience to look for a different avenue to create a connection with the work.

Visit the Viewing Room

Not Dior’s New “Look” stands as a statement of the beauty of fashion within fine art, but more importantly, it stands as a reclamation of the power that has historically been denied to women, a power innately born from within. Coyle and Martin reclaim this power by not giving it away to their audience, the key component being the eyes of their subjects, or lack thereof. As a metaphor, they defy the male gaze by not allowing their work to be seen as objects of pleasure, but rather as objects of admiration. The women depicted in this show are an eclectic bunch, but they all maintain a signature strength, a strength so characteristic of both artists' work.
  • Jul 9 2020 - Jul 9 2020