Overdressed

by | Jun 18, 2021 | Art | 0 comments

Below are photos from my photography exhibit Overdressed, a docu-series taken over two years showing the serious realities of living with environmental illness, while wearing my fanciest piece of clothing, a blue gown. A special thanks to Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA) and Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba (AANM) for sponsoring this exhibition. Please click on the first photo to activate the gallery view so you can see them full-size.

view the full exhibition on Facebook

Artist’s Statement

I live with Environmental Illness (known as environmental sensitivities), Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) and Toxic Mold Exposure. In those afflicted, these conditions cause adverse reactions to scents, chemicals, building supplies, mold, WiFi, electrical devices and so on. For some, the limited access to safe housing, food, public spaces, transportation and medical specialists can result in debilitating symptoms affecting multiple organ systems and lead to a life of isolation. For me, indoor housing has become intolerable.

I have thus taken to living a nomadic lifestyle by following the warm weather patterns that enable me to be outdoors. In the winter months, I migrate to the desert in a cargo van adapted for safe housing to ease the symptoms. The life I live is similar to living in quarantine and I think a lot about Maslow’s Theory of Human Motivation. His Hierarchy of Needs implies that we must satisfy the needs of one stage before feeling motivated to arise to the next.

In survival mode 24/7, I go to great lengths to meet my basic needs. Accessing water, cooking, cleaning and personal care require careful planning. These seemingly simple tasks (turned all-day productions) are, in actuality, special events. To mark the occasion, I wear the most precious piece of clothing I own: a blue evening gown, and workboots to accessorize.

Exhausted, I’m then challenged with finding a comfortable place to rest. As I travel my boots become worn and the blue dress becomes increasingly dirtier. Amidst the hard work and difficulties, there are, nonetheless, moments when I feel I have attained freedom, esteem and belonging. Overdressed is a 2 year photo-documentation project to depict the journey I have undertaken towards self-actualization.

view the full exhibition on Facebook

Editor’s Note: We just found out that the van Marie lives in currently needs to be replaced. If you’d like to support her work and her efforts to live in a safer vehicle, please consider donating to her gofundme.

 

 

  • Marie LeBlanc is a self-taught multidisciplinary artist. Through photography, multimedia projection, short film, performance and wordsmithing she explores themes related to landscape, isolation, beauty, health and nature. Capturing faces, shapes, shadows and reflections with digital and on-camera effects, often superimposing her own reflection, she seeks to embrace the present moment and the ethereal world around her.

    Originally from Northern Manitoba, she lived in Winnipeg before recently relocating to Alberta. In the winter months, she travels to the U.S. desert in a cargo van adapted for safe housing to ease the symptoms of Environmental Illness (referred to as Environmental Sensitivities in Canada). Because the illness remains an unrecognizable and misunderstood diagnosis, her work intends to self-advocate and bring awareness to the related struggles faced by so many. LeBlanc’s most important awareness project to date, WHO says we need fresh air?! has travelled throughout Manitoba, to Edmonton, Jasper and Arizona. Quotes from individuals across the globe afflicted by Environmental Illness are projected onto buildings, structures, billboards, screens and monitors.

    LeBlanc holds a Bachelor of Arts in Human Geography and Sociology from the University of Manitoba. She has participated in the Making Our Mark II Printmaking Mentorship Program at Martha Street Studio, the Artist In Residency Program at Artbeat Studio and the Art Salon Program at Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba (AANM). Her story and artwork have been featured in interviews and articles throughout Western Canada, in Quartzsite (Arizona) and with MCS Aware (UK). She was recently awarded Microgrants from Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art and AANM for the completion of Overdressed.

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