Mehryl Levisse

'White Wig'

Mehryl Levisse’s multifaceted practice explores notions of subjectivity and identity related to queer experience. Using gendered symbols and imagery associated with pageantry, masquerade, and cabaret, the artist produces an extravagant visual language that interrogates commonly accepted conceptions of masculinity and femininity. Levisse’s performances and installations act as stages on which gender is remixed and obfuscated. Serving as emcee, the artist orchestrates space to question the limits of the body and the societal codes that constitute how we behave.

Signature image for Mehryl Levisse exhibition
Mehryl Levisse, "White Wig," 2021. Courtesy of the artist.

In White Wig, Levisse swathes the SCAD Museum of Art in a monochromatic pink wallpaper and purple translucent glass application of the artist’s design that include theatrical motifs like gloved hands, pom poms, fetish heels, wigs, glossy lips, and a velvet curtain. Mounted salon-style, a selection of paintings from the museum’s Earle W. Newton Collection of British and American Portraiture — chosen by the artist — featuring prominent English individuals of the 18th century in fashionable dress, are situated within an immersive, opulent pattern. Placing these society portraits within a taxonomy of symbols of femininity and performative gender, Levisse examines the use of hairstyle and dress as markers of status and identity that have been historically separated into the strict binary of man and woman.

Within this immersive staging, sculpted wigs created by five Parisian drag entertainers are displayed prominently on a velour-clad pedestal. The wigs function in dialogue with the portraits, contrasting the historic symbolism of the white wig in English society and courts. Centering the contributions of drag queens — artists who perform many aspects of gender — in the gallery space, Levisse reverses codes of power and blurs traditional boundaries of solo authorship, proposing a queer alternative that transcends the individual for the collective.

About the artist

Portrait of Mehryl Levisse

Mehryl Levisse (b. 1985, France) has exhibited work in museums, galleries, and biennials including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris; the International Biennale of Casablanca; Musée Arthur Rimbaud, Charleville-Mézières; the International Center of Photography, New York; the French Institute of Casablanca; Catinca Tabacaru Gallery, New York; Bertrand Grimont Galerie, Paris; the International Puppet Biennial; and the International Biennial of Poetry. He is preparing for three major exhibitions at Bienalsur, Buenos Aires, Argentina; BISO Biennale, Burkina Faso; and Yango II (International Biennale of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo). An activist and militant, Levisse is engaged in the fight for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. In 2018, he created Travball, an inclusive game played by drag queens and the public to deconstruct and fight against homophobia in sport. The artist lives and works in Casablanca and Charleville-Mézières in the north of France.

 

Credits

White Wig is organized by SCAD MOA associate curator Ben Tollefson.

Museum Admission

The exhibition is free for museum members and SCAD students, faculty, and staff with a valid SCAD Card. Open to the public with the cost of museum admission.

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