Joelle Circé has been experiencing an artistic and personal awakening.
As a lesbian of transsexual origin, Circé’s physical transition has also led to a profound emotional shift. She started to experience a new level of wonder and fascination with women’s bodies, and her growing personal experience with misogyny and oppression transformed her art into decidedly queer work.
“I had stopped [painting] for about 10 years before my transition,” Circé says. “Before that, I was doing landscapes, still lifes and portraits for a living. It wasn’t satisfying enough. I dropped it all, walked away from it and joined Scientology for 14 years.”
But when Circé came out as a woman to her fellow Scientologists in Los Angeles, she says, it did not go over well. She decided to move back to Canada and make space in her life to become herself fully.
This month at Venus Envy, locals get a chance to see what she’s been working on throughout this transformative period.
Her body of work began with a series of vaginal portraits she started painting 12 years ago.
“They were the first paintings I did after my transition,” she says. “Some of them are erotic — BDSM and fetish — and others are more feminist, addressing body issues and misogyny.”
From there, Circé moved on to a series of portraits with queer and kink themes — capturing rope play, eroticism, dildos and harnesses, moments of personal and sexual liberation, as well as images of the queer and gaymous, like Montreal’s Nat King Pole and New York’s Con Artist.
These last two portraits are currently on loan to the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York, along with an image of transsexual crucifixion, called Damned, which was accepted into the permanent collection there four months ago.
“I was in at the reception for an all-women’s art show, called Estrogenius, in New York,” Circé says. “The curator said, ‘Come over here. I want to introduce you to someone.’ Very unexpected. That’s how it came about.”
This month’s show, The Art of Joelle Circé, features samples of Circé’s edgiest work, which is right at home amongst the dildos, vibrators, floggers, rope and books of erotica permanently on offer at Venus Envy.
The Art of Joelle Circé
Runs until Sat, March 31
320 Lisgar St