“I am interested in images that are imbued with sensuality and render my subjects physically and emotionally compelling.”

Milieux member, Marisa Portolese has been named McCord Museum’s 2017 artist in residence. Located in Montreal, the museum is dedicated to preserving and studying the city’s social history. The residency program encourages artists to critically reflect on the museum’s collection.

For Portolese, the residency is an opportunity to further explore her project, Belle de Jour. Produced in 2002, the first phase surveyed over 30 large-scale color photographs depicting women in various stages of undress posing as iconic female types culled from the canons of art history and vernacular culture.

In 2014, she pushed her idea further, wanting to challenge deeply entrenched standards of beauty. She emphasized body diversity by photographing an array of female types from various walks of life and age groups.

“In both series, I ultimately created my own feminist narrative by using a language of subversion to comment on a different type of beauty that is not dependent on artifice, as is often associated with mainstream images of women.”

At the McCord, Portolese will focus on William Notman photographs of women at the turn of the 20th century. One of Canada’s most recognized photographers, Notman produced thousands of images during the Victorian era.  The museum is currently hosting an exhibition featuring over 300 of his photographs and objects from their collection.

Using The William Notman Photographic Archives, Portolese will examine how women were photographed and depicted, from the earliest days of photography to the end of the 19th century. The residency is an extension of Belle de Jour III, the 3rd phase of her project. “My goal is to create a series of images that converse with Notman’s historical oeuvre and legacy.

“This new body of work allows viewers to witness and appreciate the extraordinary legacy of the archive and to experience a conversation that transpires between Notman’s remarkable images of women of a certain epoch with contemporary portraits of my own.”

Images by Marisa Portelese, part of her Belle du Jour III project.