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Nicole Crozier's Strip Fit Collages: Cutting into a New Vision of Female Beauty and Power

Abstract

Haute Couture is a culture of excess that entangles and confuses female power with consumer power. Toronto-based media artist Nicole Crozier's Strip Fit collages feature fragments from popular fashion magazines as acts of exploration and subversion. Interested in the fashion model's commodity mannequin, part of a capitalist matrix of sexual desire and semantics of consumption, her work provides a record of Western conceptions of beauty while simultaneously gesturing toward embodied transcorporeality. Identity becomes assemblage between women and the natural world, reclaiming a space of women-nature togetherness.
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Nicole Crozier’s
Strip Fit
Collages: Cutting into a New Vision of
Female Beauty and Power
Toronto-based mixed media artist Nicole Crozier builds on a long tradition of collage, assemblage
and found art which has revolutionized the art world since the twentieth-centur y. She cuts
and fragments images from popular fashion magazines as acts of exploration and subversion.
Interested in the fashion model’s function as a commodity mannequin, part of a capitalist matrix
of sexual desire and the semantics of consumption, Crozier ’s Strip Fit series of collages provide
viewers with a fragmented record of Western conceptions of female beauty.
Haute couture is a culture of excess that entangles and confuses female power with
consumer power. Nicole’s work unsettles and tears apart an industry that constructs ideals of
female beauty through the production of advertising. In this economic model, advertisements are
money; they are power. By cutting, extracting, layering, lighting up and photographing fragments
of these magazine ads that she has found or that have been passed on to her, Crozier blurs the
lines between the marketing industry and the production of art.
The models in these magazines represent highly stylized sites of narrative power. They
emphasize the seductive and sell more than clothing: they provoke feelings and desires; they
organize value systems that at once glorify a certain type of body while manufacturing a universal
kind of beauty sellable to as many women as possible. While not every woman can buy a Chanel
dress, Coco Mademoiselle is a perfume targeted to the middle-class consumer. Protability drives
the industry’s shift toward featuring more aordable items such as accessories and make-up lines
in their advertisements. The particular smell of the perfume or shade of eyeshadow is not as
important as the power of the brand.
The world created by these advertisements, then, is one in which the middle-class
consumer agrees to leap into a luxury lifestyle which excludes her and, paradoxically, seduces her
and invites her to participate in it vicariously through the purchase of cheap(er) product lines. This
outsider-insider tension sustains her desire to be part of a bigger franchise: the jet-set world of
celebrities and wealthy public gures that attend the catwalks she can glimpse in magazines and on
the screen but not attend in person. In a system that manufactures a perpetual lack of satisfaction
symptomatic of the consumerist impulse for more—always more in search of a morphing ideal—
we nd the blueprints of an unsustainable model of endless production.
Never mind the social and environmental devastation caused by the ready-to-wear
industry that produces thousands of low-quality outts per season, many of which are thrown in
the garbage when not sold, or discarded by consumers shortly thereafter. The fashion industr y
has been synonymous with excess for a long time; it is now being read, measured and talked
about in terms of waste. It produces tons of garbage, literally. According to a 2017 article, “more
than 15 million tons of used textile waste is generated each year in the United States” (The Balance).
H&M, Zara, Club Monaco, Forever 21 and others like them produce clothing that ends up in the
dump faster than ever before: “an average American throws away approximately 80 pounds of
used clothing per [year]” (The Balance). Crozier’s collages cut through the excess and dump of
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the fashion industry in favour of a new and polyphonic vision of female beauty and power: by
subverting and sabotaging the advertising industry’s intent to conate self with product; by re-
image-ining women’s relationships with the living organic environment around them; by inserting
what I call “moments of poetry” into advertisements as a way of celebrating their artistic potential.
Scritch, dimensions variable, Digital Inkjet Print.
In “Scritch,” for example, the fragmented models, featured in the centre of the image,
produce an eect of multiplicity: these are the eyes and arms of not one, but many women.
Tightly choreographed for unity, however, Crozier has picked women wearing pink sweaters. Pink
is not just a colour, explains Veronika Koller. It is a marker in visual communication for gender and
sexuality. Beyond its cliché connotations with heterosexual femininity and feminine homosexuality
(associated with gay men in particular) “and its stereotypical features, such as softness and delicacy,
with childhood and innocence as well as with vanity and articiality” (396), Kollers study suggests
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pink also tips into negative connotations such as naiveté, stupidity and cheapness (404).
 Inthiscollage,“theeectsoflowsaturation”provokeasensefemininityassociatedtothe
“subtleandtender”(KressandVanLeeuwenqtdinKoller413).Indeed,tendernessisalsowritten
inthechoiceoffabric,knittedwoolsweaters.Asmanyfeministscholarshavenoted,knitting,a
domesticactivityusuallyassociatedwitholdergenerations,hasseenarevivalamongWestern
feministandqueercircles(Myzelev;Pentney;Kelly).Here,Ireadtheknittedsweaterasametaphor
ofunitingmultiplicities.Inmyqueerandfeministreadingof“Scritch,”thepinksweatersrepresenta
weavingtogetherofdierentagenciestocreateafragmentedwhole.
 Weseethisrstofallinthelayeringofmultiplewomenintoasinglebody.Theeectis
uncanny.Itsuggeststhatidentityisakintoassemblage.Indeed,fashionadvertisementspresent
women’sclothingandaccessoriesaslifestylesforpurchase.Thisisnotspecictothefashionworld;
advertisingmakesdesirableavarietyofproducts,frombeertocars,byusingwomen’sbodiesas
gatewaystosellinganemotionormoodassociatedwithanidentity.In“Scritch,”facesandbodies
areentangled,mouldingandmorphingintoanamorphouscollageofawomanmadeupofmany
women.Whereasadvertisementssellspecicfacesandproductsinaglobaleconomyofprêt-à-
porteridentities,Crozierscollageresistsandsubvertstheimages’capitalisticintent.Bydoingso,
shereorganisesvaluesystemsandrewritesnarrativesofwhatisdesirable.
 Neoliberalismsustainsthebeautymythbyconfusingrelationshipswomenhavewith
themselves,eachother,andtheorganic,livingworldaroundthem.Thefashionindustry,among
others,hascreatedwhatsomescholarscall“aestheticentrepreneurs”bycoercingwomento
maintainaconstantstateofvigilanceabouttheirappearance(Aesthetic Labour: Rethinking Beauty
Politics in Neoliberalism55-60;317-322).Undertheself-governingmodelofneoliberalism,girls
andwomenareencouragedintoanunforgivingformofself-surveillance:fromourclothestoour
weightandheight,everypartofus,includingourverysubjectivity,hasbeencolonizedbythe
neoliberalbeautymyth.
 Crozier’s“Scritch”bringsattentiontothewayouridentitiesareshapedbytheimages
weseeofotherwomen,whetherit’sinfashionmagazines,television,socialmedia,fashionblogs,
do-it-yourselfYouTubevideos,orappsthatmonitorourfoodintake,tolistbutafew.Bylayering
women’sfacestogetherinanewcontext,Crozier sworkalsogesturestowardsisterhoodoutside
ofheteropatriarchalandneoliberalsystems.Herhybridizingofidentitiesandintimaciesbetween
womenisnotforthemalegaze.Womendonotcompetewitheachotherforattentionhere.They
arenotsellinganything.Thisisnotabeautypageant.Thisisasceneinwhichwomen’sidentities
collapseandmergeintoone;amoment,also,inwhichwewitnessawomantenderlyplacingher
armsaroundherbodyinasymbolicgestureofcaringforherselfoutsideofthewoman-product
andwoman-consumerdialectic.
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Left: Snick, dimensions variable, Digital Inkjet Print. Right: SpiderLash, dimensions variable, Digital
Inkjet Print
Importantly, the introduction of leaves and branches in “Scritch” suggests the living
environment has agency in women’s bodies and lives. Usually, the focus in fashion images is placed
on the model and the products. Here, however, three dimensional natural elements literally stand
out of the source collage and give the nal photograph its depth. Crozier ’s “Snick” and “SpiderLash”
also decentralize the model’s face in favour of images of the natural world. Here, images of leaves
and twigs mould and morph with the women’s faces.
In “Snick,” we see the portrait of a hybrid woman who stands somewhere between human
and natural world. Building on Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto,” a founding posthumanist
text that blurs boundaries between human, animal, the natural world and machine in favour
of coalition through anity, I suggest Croziers “Scritch,” “Snick,” and “SpiderLash” create poetic
moments that gesture toward transcorporeality. By transcorporeality, a term coined by Stacey
Alaimo, I mean that our bodies are situated in a material world that is porous and amorphous,
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References
Alaimo, Stacy. Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self. Indiana University
Press, 2010.
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Palgrave MacMillan, 2017.
Kelly, Maura. “Knitting as a feminist project?” Women’s Studies International Forum, vol. 44,
2014, pp. 133-144. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wsif.2013.10.011.
Koller, Veronika. “‘Not just a Colour’: Pink as a Gender and Sexuality Marker in Visual
Communication.Visual Communication, vol. 7, no. 4, 2008, pp. 395-423. http://
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Pentney,BethAnn.“Feminism,activism,andknitting:Arethebreartsaviablemodefor
feminist political action?” thirdspace: a journal of feminist theory & culture, vol. 8,
no. 1, 2008. http://journals.sfu.ca/thirdspace/index.php/journal/article/view/
pentney/210.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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Leblanc, Rick. "Textile Recycling Facts and Figures. " The balance small business, 29 Dec. 2017, www.thebalancesmb.com/textile-recycling-facts-and-figures-2878122. Accessed 29 May 2018.
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Pentney, Beth Ann. "Feminism, activism, and knitting: Are the fibre arts a viable mode for feminist political action?" thirdspace: a journal of feminist theory & culture, vol. 8, no. 1, 2008. http://journals.sfu.ca/thirdspace/index.php/journal/article/view/ pentney/210.