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The focus of my work is an examination of women's experience in our society. I have addressed both personal and political issues, ranging from women's perceptions of their bodies to the relationship between fashion images and pornography. I have examined the socialization of women in North American society and the roles they play. I often use humour as a tool to draw the viewer into a critique of a situation. Most of my work utilizes text, often women's stories which I have collected orally or through questionnaires. More recently, I have been working with my own stories.
I use a variety of materials and techniques in my work, including paper, fabric, photocopying and embroidery, choosing whatever seems to be the most appropriate structure for the content. I almost always start with the story, but I have a lot of fun with the shape of the book, trying to make it tell a story of its own. Currently, I am working on a new series of artists' books on the theme of the connections between our health and our environment.
The works of Lise Melhorn-Boe are comparable to a quirky sociological study. Her first artists' books set the tone for future creations: whimsical, ironic, subversive and decidedly feminist.
Melhorn-Boe was born in the Quebec mining town of Noranda. Her mother, painter Pauline Gilmore-Melhorn, was a guiding force in her daughter's life, encouraging her to draw, paint and create crafts at a young age. After a foray into architecture, Melhorn-Boe decided to study visual arts at the University of Guelph, followed by a master's degree in visual arts at Wayne State University in Detroit. It was at Wayne State that she created her first works during printing and paper-making workshops in what she laughingly calls the "frozen dungeon."
Over the past 25 years, Melhorn-Boe's books have assumed a wide array of shapes, each designed to reflect its specific subject. Hairy Legs, published in 1982 by Melhorn-Boe's own company, Transformer Press, was the first in a series in which the paper determines the actual shape of the work. The handmade paper used in this series appears in every shade of pink imaginable, a colour rich in connotation that acts as a visual foil and further emphasizes Melhorn-Boe's text, which deals with the social construct of traditional female role models.
Alluding to the feminist slogan of the 1960s "The private is political," the intimate act of women shaving their legs is examined in Hairy Legs, a book that takes its title literally and incorporates these fibres into the paper that forms the leg-shaped pages. A questionnaire used for statistical and sociological research serves as a foundation for the text. In High Heels, the many reasons why women do or do not wear high heels are written in the insoles of these paradoxical heels. Lastly, the way in which both men and women use the colour pink is explored in Powder Puff Pink.
Melhorn-Boe moved to North Bay, Ontario, in 1990. There she created The Sex Lives of Vegetables, a reinterpretation of the standard seed catalogue in which the vegetables' libido seems to awaken through Lorna Crozier's luscious poetry. In the biographical Rough Girls and Girls I Have Known, paper cut-outs of men and women help to situate the stories' protagonists visually. Cinderella is part of a series about fairy tales, particularly those for little girls. Using words and images from advertisements found in women's magazines, the artist illustrates the stereotypes in these stories and sets out to defeat their purpose.
The Sex Lives of Vegetables: A Seed Catalogue
Rough Girls: A Book
Girls I Have Known
Cinderella: How to Make a Statement Without Saying a Word: Told in Words and Pictures from Fashion Magazines