Lingerie travels the world in ‘The Red Slip Project’
By Emily Macrander
Photographer Shanti Matulewski incorporates everything from burlesque dancers to drag kings in her new exhibit.
The red slip has never been washed, has traveled internationally and just this past weekend took a dip in the Atlantic, soaked in the shower and swam in a swimming pool. But it has never gone for a spin in the washing machine.
The soiled poly-blend candy red piece of lingerie ties together photographer Shanti Matulewski’s collection, “The Red Slip Project,” which will be shown at the Austin Figurative Gallery Saturday night.
Matulewski began work on the project in May of 2005 when she was in Italy participating in an urban photography workshop under Harvey Stein. Her class was asked to shoot a small collection of photographs based upon their surroundings.
“I asked myself how I was going to make my work stand out from all the other people in the workshop who were walking around shooting essentially street scenes,” Matulewski said.
“It was this meditative moment. I was on this spiritual high when I was there. Everything the color red represents was how I was feeling: alive, impassioned, and all those things the color symbolizes,” said Matulewski. “I thought, well, I have this slip. I’ll let all the other workshop participants wear it, and I’ll shoot them out at night. I ended up shooting pictures of myself as well. That’s how it all got started.”
Two years later, the Red Slip Project is still a work in progress. Participants, the subjects of the photographs who wear the red slip, have ranged from those near and dear to the artist to acquaintances.
“Oftentimes a friend of a friend will hear about what I am doing and say ‘I totally want to do that. Let’s meet up next Saturday.’ And it’s done. There’s this sense of instant gratification. There’s not too much planning,” said Matulewski. “Sometimes, if I know someone well enough, I will see how I want to shoot them. I may say ‘Hey, why don’t we try this?’ and the process is more collaborative.”
Since handed a camera as a young teenager, Matulewski has recorded her surroundings frame by frame. On a recent trip to Lubbock, Matulewski and her creative collaborator and fellow artist Annie Simpson took a collective 900 photographs in 48 hours.
Matulewski’s interest in bending and blurring accepted gender norms is evident in her photography and stage work. For Matulewski, art is her way of discovering how to be what she defines as her best self. From hyper-femme burlesque dance to drag-king, Matulewski seeks forms of expression where she feels free from constraint.
“It’s fun to try on all of these different characters. Each character is a combination of a lot of things that are inspiring me at that time,” said Matulewski.
“What it comes down to is finding strength within myself, and ultimately becoming more of who I already am.”
A synesthetic quality, where something such as sound makes the viewer see something else like a color, is the common thread between Simpson’s and Matulewski’s work. But what is good art?
Matulewski said that good art is achieved by simply doing something different.
“I always forget how my photographs can make people uncomfortable, make them a feel startled for a moment, but that always been how my art has been,” said Matulewski. “I don’t necessarily want to make people feel uncomfortable, but I would like it to become more of the norm. I want to make more work of what I want to see. That is what excites me. That is good art.”
The Where & The When
The Red Slip Project
The Austin Figurative Art Gallery
301 Chicon Street
Saturday. 7 p.m. - 11 p.m.
For more information see today’s Life & Arts section of the Daily Texan