Between the chrome tinsel, black fur frames, fifty-six cherries hanging from the wall and red satin draped over a small parlor table and chair, everything in the exhibit was eye-catching. And that was not even part of her photography. In a 200 square-foot space, UC Santa Cruz art student Camille Mariet was able to create a gallery jam-packed with glam, glitter and gluttony through photography and installation pieces.
From Sept. 22 to Sept. 28, Mariet’s solo exhibition, “Pulp,” ran in the Eduardo Carrillo Gallery in Baskin Visual Arts Room E-103 as part of her senior show. The three photographs Mariet featured were displayed across the wall, with generous space in between to allow each piece to stand on its own, each drawing the audience in with their vibrant pinks, blues and greens — even using food as clothing and props.
“The materials that I use, like the cherries and the fruit and the glitter and the cum-like substances,” Mariet said, “I chose because these objects and materials hold weight in reference to societal perceptions of sex and gender.”
The three photographs Mariet made avid use of props — particularly fruit, flowers and lots of glitter. In one photograph, the shot focused on the model’s crotch, covered in blue glitter alongside decaying roses and a half-peeled banana pierced with pins. Another photograph captured a very flexible model in a blonde wig with her eyes rolled into the back of her head as she pressed her own glitter-covered foot into her face. The final photograph showed model Summer Stiegman wearing a crown of cherries, juice dripping down her face and eye makeup that mimicked avocados.
“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, which I really liked,” Stiegman said. “I came to her apartment, and she had three different scenes and backdrops and materials. And [Camille] knew what she wanted.”
For the artist, the photographs portray and distort stereotypes about femininity to challenge the standards that others hold for women.
“When I started this project, it was a lot about society using shame to control people’s actions,” Mariet said. “[…] There is this collective tool, shame, that we use to mold people or even beat them into submission.”
In addition to the photographs hanging on the wall, she hung red drapes over a corner of the gallery where a pink and white furry carpet lay. On the carpet sat a golden parlor chair and mirrored table that held two margarita glasses full of glitter and cherries. Mariet hoped that this part of her installation would inspire audience members to take photographs of their own using this scene as a backdrop.
“I’ve always really liked the installation aspect to my photography,” Mariet said. “I wanted to have something in real life that people could kind of get inside of or touch or see.”
With its colors and sexually charged imagery, Mariet’s work sparked intrigue and raised a lot of questions from the audience.
“For the average viewer, I feel like they would write [the art] off as being childish almost,” said fourth-year UCSC student and gallery attendee J. Ramirez. “They’d be saying, ‘Why is there a crotch? Why are there feet? Why is this crotch covered in glitter?’ But I feel like that’s the point.”
Gallery attendees expressed their own ideas surrounding the point of the work. Fourth-year student Gabriel Lopez attended the gallery on opening night and immediately noticed how feminism played into Mariet’s pieces.
“She was conceptually critiquing femininity as well as empowering it,” Lopez said. “She’s definitely playing a lot with the binaries and juxtapositions of male and female genders. […]It’s very clear, as a heterosexual male, that the piece was not made with me in mind.”
Many attendees saw Mariet’s work as subverting the male gaze, a theoretical concept about how our point of view is often constructed from a male perspective in media. This perspective consumes the feminine, seeing women less as people and more as objects. The power of this concept comes from audiences deriving pleasure from women’s objectification.
UCSC feminist studies professor Madhavi Murty, who teaches classes on popular culture in South Asia, delineated how to best reclaim power from the male gaze.
“You can get to a point where you are […]able to think about the ways in which you are being moved, being made to cry, being made to laugh, being aroused,” Murty said. “You are able to see that and yet find pleasure in it. When you get to that point, it truly is a subversive moment, because you’ve truly made the image your own.”
With this definition of male gaze subversion, Mariet’s work succeeds in breaking down male power over women through indulgent self-pleasure. Mariet reflected Murty’s perspective on reclamation with her artistic process.
“I think that having to live your life keeping [the male gaze] in account is essentially still living your life dominated by it,” Mariet said. “So if you just go fucking nuts and completely steer off the road and do what people aren’t used to seeing, the male gaze isn’t even relevant anymore. No one’s is.”