Shelby Fleming holds a BFA in Studio Art from Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville and is currently pursuing her MFA at the University of Arkansas School of Art. Fleming’s artwork has been exhibited nationally and international at the CICA Museum, Gyenoggi-do, South Korea, the International Sculpture Conference, the Kansas City Art Institute, Art Center of the Ozarks, Arsagas at the Depot, The Apothecary Gallery, The Saint Louis Artists’ Guild, Art Saint Louis, Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, and Buchanan Center for the Arts.
Bodies of Work
The Physical Body
I have always had a fascination with the anatomy of the human body and its connection to other living organisms. However, I find myself repeatedly drawn to the flaws in our anatomy that make us individuals. Disabilities, illness, or complications affect our life style and how we interact with the world around us. In my art making I try to educate the viewer by helping them experience what individuals with complications go through.
My current body of work focuses on Osteoporosis. I use found objects as a stand in for these individuals. The found object’s function is generally a supportive one, an example being a chair or ladder. We hold a trust in supportive objects and expect them to fulfill their function. However, when the supportive object is altered the viewer begins to doubt their trust on whether the object will stay together, let alone support the viewer. In this the viewer is given the same feeling of insecurity that a person with osteoporosis might have in their everyday life.
In my abstract relief work I am focused on a connection between the materials wood and steel. The two materials create a contradicting dialogue. Wood has a temporary essence but also a fragile one. With time the wood will wither away with erosion and decay. The wood layer of my reliefs draws influence from Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) images of cellular structures. The SEM images create an emphasis on the organic qualities of the wood and draw connections back to anatomy. Steel holds a dialogue of permanence and fragility. Steel is often used to replace areas in which bone has eroded in the body creating a tension between soft organic life versus the hard man made steel.
The Psychological Body
My current work engages the physical and psychological body by decoding the complex public constraints that have restricted the expression of women and queer sexuality. A few of these restrictions include blaming of the victim, how sex is framed for men versus women through slang and sexual education, self-objectification, hyper sexualization, and dehumanization. By presenting my sculptural work through the lens of photography I control what information is revealed and concealed to the viewer. This acts as a metaphor for how we choose to present ourselves publicly versus privately and the risks involved in revealing too much. The seemingly microscopic images also critique the fast-paced consumption of artwork in today’s galleries and museums by causing the viewer to slow down and observe details that would otherwise be overlooked.
Reveal and Conceal of Self
Through instillation and the use of party materials, I create spaces that explore the reveal and conceal of self and the risks involved in revealing too much. The use of wrapping paper and table clothes speak to the temporary fragile garments we use to conceal objects or domestic spaces that we would rather remain unseen. A reflection of this can be seen in how we present ourselves in these spaces, often we conceal a part of ourselves or are expected to interact in an alternative less genuine manner. As a cis gendered woman that identifies as queer, I am often pressured to wear an alternative identity as my sexuality is seen as shameful or repulsive. My gender is also put into questions as I function outside of the traditional feminine role of house wife.
My artwork also critiques the viewers rapid consumption of artworks in galleries and museums today. On average the viewer spends 15-30 seconds with an individual artwork and is not physically and psychologically present with the artwork. Through the eye candy colors and tactile textures, I look to draw the viewer into a practice of slow looking and begin to be present with the artwork.
Men at Work
Drawing inspiration from Mierle Laderman Ukeles, “Washing/Tracks/Maintenance: Outside” (1973), Men at work looks to directly confront issues of sexism, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment in the work place. Through a playful approach to this dense subject matter I look to point out the obvious gender divide that is being over looked.