Artist Michelle Mildenhall is currently taking part in an exciting and provocative new show titled “Sex Sells”. Alongside two other acclaimed artists, Jess Eaton and Andrew Shoben, Michelle is showing a set of portraits which have been meticulously constructed from sheets of latex.
The show, which takes place at Embassy Tea Gallery in London, encompasses the macabre, the kinky and the intensely sexual with each artist exploring the erotic realms in their inimitable style. It promises to be a celebration of all things sexual, sensual and sinister. We caught up with Michelle at the private view and she very kindly gave us some fascinating insight into her work.
How did the exhibition "Sex Sells", with the other artists Andrew Shoben and Jess Eaton, come about?
About a year ago Andrew and I decided to do an exhibition together, it arose from a conversation we had. He had bought one of my latex pieces and we wanted to put our work together as it really complimented each other’s. We decided go for it and to do the show for ourselves. It’s the first time we’ve shown together and the largest amount of work I’ve produced and shown in one place.
You’re well known as being the UK’s only latex artist. In the art world latex is a very uncommon material. How did you come across using it in your art and what are the qualities of it that appeal to you?
I make outfits for myself out of latex but I’m artist, this led to an epiphany one day, why don’t I create my art in latex, as nobody else is doing it? Latex comes in so many amazing colours with pearlescence and glittery effects. It’s such a sensual material. What I’ve created with the latex adds eroticism to my work. For me it was a natural progression.
How you choose the celebrity figures in your portraits?
I’ve used David Bowie because he’s very statuesque and I idolise him. Personally I put him up there with the Pope. For people like the Queen or Margaret Thatcher there is a feeling of irony, its fun and you see my character coming through. Thatcher’s reign coincided with the Punk Movement so it’s entertaining to put her in a dog collar with purple eye make up. With the Queen I’ve made her beautiful but she has a very sexual look in her eyes.
Talk us through the physical process of making your artwork…
I come up with an idea or image and then cut everything out by hand from latex. I have to use thinners and special glue that you can only get from a single shop in the UK. It’s a very unique process. The latex comes in huge sheets like on a roll fabric, so I spend hours cutting it. Once all the shapes are cut out I have to apply thinners and then stick it all back together.
Finally what kind of impact and message do you want to communicate with your work?
I would like to show people something that they have never seen before. The message is a combination of the fun elements and irony, with the more fetishistic characters. The women in my art look as if they’re being dominated but they are actually the ones in control. They are very strong women, the opposite of how you first perceive them. I want people to look deeply into the characters rather than just seeing the initial image.