'No Damsel' at CAM Raleigh a breath of fresh air for the ladies

Photos provided by Dorian Lynde.

L.A.-based artist Dorian Lynde re-contextualizes familiar Disney characters Pocahontas, Belle, Ariel and the like in “No Damsel” at CAM Raleigh, on view until August 6.

In addition to the animated cel images at CAM, pop-up illustrations of revamped Disney characters can be found on walls, facades and back alleys in and around downtown Raleigh. Follow along at #nodamsel.

ArtsNow: What’s your connection to Raleigh?

Dorian Lynde: I first came to Raleigh for Phil America’s show “Failure of the American Dream.” I absolutely fell in love with the city – the people, environment and food, all of which are amazing.

[Related: ICYMI – Highlights from First Friday in Raleigh] 

AN: What do you hope for viewers to take away from ‘No Damsel?’

DL: My wall paintings portray alternative identities for women that aren’t one dimensional, regressive or reductive and are impossible to ignore. It’s my hope that these images can inspire women. I’m particularly eager for younger audiences to experience it.

What inspired this show?

DL: I’ve travelled extensively and even in slums and remote towns you can find young girls wearing Belle shirts. Disney princesses are ubiquitous images that a very wide audience can understand, particularly youth — and it’s important to me to make my work accessible to youth. I chose this as a vehicle to explore female iconography and its manipulative effect.

“Sleeping Beauty” has only 18 lines of dialogue, and is sexually assaulted in her sleep. The message this sends is internalized by millions of young women. Until I re-watched the movies I had totally forgotten their problematic nature — and some are really problematic.

Between 1942 and 1945, Disney exclusively created military propaganda films; they’re aware of the manipulative psychological effect they have on their audiences. For girls to be absorbing such problematic material, on repeat, at such a young age is a huge problem for me.

[Related: Snow White as a tattooed boxer. Ariel in a wheelchair. CAM’s ‘No Damsel’ exhibit reimagines Disney’s princesses.]

AN: How is this showing helping to fix this problem?  

DL: “No Damsel” creates alternative iconography for young girls. By showing these characters with agency and interests outside of marriage, I want to undo some of the effects that the ‘damsel in distress’ narrative might have caused.

[Related: Explore the #nodamsel movement in Raleigh]

AN: You study the societal treatment of women and have even presented your findings in Seoul, South Korea for TEDx. Can you tell us a little about this talk?

DL: My TEDx talk was about the marginalization of women in art history, and how this continues today. This is a huge topic to condense into a 15 minute talk, and there are so many surprising and eye opening instances of women being systematically erased from the art history books. My favorite story is of the Dutch Golden Age painter Judith Leyster, whose entire oeuvre was wrongly attributed to her male associate Frans Hals for over 200 years. It was discovered by the Louvre in 1893 that her monogram had been painted over with a fabricated signature of Hals. This is such a good example of a woman’s contribution to art history being literally erased.

AN: How have alliances with marginalized groups helped inform your work?

DL: I have a huge network of allies that I reach out to for advice. For the creation of “No Damsel,” I worked extensively with women to find out how they would want to be represented. Creating a work that embodies a wide range of voices is extremely important to me. Privileging visibility of women of color and queer identities takes a precedent for me.

[instagram url=https://www.instagram.com/p/BUu7b7alwm0/ width=420]

AN: Do you think the creative field is moving in a more open and amorphous structure, one that is welcoming of modern gender roles?

DL: I think art is very, very slowly moving into a more positive place for women and POC. The art market and auction houses need to become more inclusive, as well as the large art museums — they are holding onto the past tightly. CAM Raleigh is very forward thinking in this way.

AN: How does this body of work help to move society in that area?

DL: I think, if anything, this show will move society in the right direction by hopefully inspiring just one young person to create their own radical body of work that continues to move art in the right direction. 

Dorian Lynde, “No Damsel”

Where: CAM Raleigh, 409 W. Martin St.
When: Sunday, May 28 through Sunday, Aug. 6
CAM Hours: noon-6 p.m. Thursday-Friday (and until 10 p.m. each First Friday); noon-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; by appointment Tuesday-Wednesday
Cost: $5 general admission; free for CAM Raleigh members, children 10 and under, seniors, veterans and active members of the U.S. military, teachers, area college students; free to all on First Fridays
Details: 919-261-5920 or camraleigh.org

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