Maria-Hélèna Pacelli


The Mannequins project stemmed out techniques that Maria-Hélèna stumbled upon in darkroom experimentation, using multiple exposures from the same negative onto a single print. The series as a whole includes images that are printed straight from the negative, as well as images that are exposed multiple times in a collage aesthetic. This speaks to the subject matter, which includes not only mannequins, but also models in advertising images, was chosen as part of a long-standing fascination with the body as a form in space, and a preoccupation with how the body is gendered and framed in commercial culture. 


This body of work was exhibited at Concordia University’s Arts Matters Festival in 2005, curated by Erin Silver. Although the exhibition was initially well received, reviews of this work centered on the fact that several prints were stolen from the exhibition space during the festival. As an artist, this was a devastating outcome of the work, which simultaneously reinforced the key themes in the work resolving around objectification and treatment of the body as a possession.


Despite being deeply disturbed by this experience, Maria-Hélèna continued to pursue their passion for the arts and remained committed to their artistic practice. They learned lessons about the elusive nature of artistic concepts within the general public and reflected on the value of art as object, process and practice. As their awareness of their own non-binary and queer identity came to light and struggles with health conditions deepened, Maria-Hélèna took their practice in many other directions, yet always centered on frameworks emerging from photographic practice: time-based work, curating images through performance, combining image and sound, capturing gesture, movement and stillness, and asking who is the subject, and who owns the gaze?

1. harlequin mannequin

2. head museum

3. bars ripples and creases

4. walk this way, this way

5. l’amour, l’amour

6. bars and lens flares

7. mighty fine glasses

8. pinned butterfly collection

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