An artist, photographer and model, Angela Biscotti is debuting her ero-romantic inspired embroidered art installation Sex On Your Sleeve at Oz Kink Fest's launch party this September. In this interview, Demasque chats with Angela about her inspirations for and intentions in sharing her interactive fashion artworks with the public. You can find official event details for the exhibition at the end of this article.
There is something to be said for ‘wearing your art’. As a model, you would be creating art with your body - clothed or unclothed - as a muse for still images, but what draws you experiment with wearable fashion as an artform?
I’ve always been fascinated by fashion, which I see as the art of impression management through dressing up and self-adornment. There’s a bit of a personal story there and I’ll try not to go into the sad details. I grew up in a very emotionally chaotic household and then went into Air Force Reserve training in my late teens. That was my first taste of the art of physical and psychological discipline and self-mastery. It was the first time I saw that my life could be different, that I could be different. I didn’t realise it at the time but the act of dressing up in the military uniform contributed so much to how my personality and physicality changed. It’s hard to not have great posture when you’re wearing clothes and accessories that are tailor-fit, that hold you in like a corset. After that I became fascinated by men’s businesswear and fashionable athleisure. It may seem like they have nothing in common but they’re both forms that are meant to communicate competence and forward movement, metaphorically in businesswear, and literally in athleisure. And then recently I became interested in vintage fashion, and mixing classic and contemporary looks. I couldn’t mix drinks to save my life but I think I’m better at being a look mixologist. I like odd combinations. I love it when I create a look that shouldn’t make sense, i.e., pieces from different periods, but I make it amazing.
What inspired you to experiment with embroidery for this exhibition?
I’ve been playing around with figure drawing since I started life modelling in 2015 and only became serious about it this year. Embroidery isn’t the only artform you’ll see in the exhibition but it’s increasingly becoming one of my favourite new forms because it’s essentially line drawing on cloth. I love seeing how the choice of stitch can change up a mood entirely. I love seeing how a piece can look good flat and when a body fills up the outfit.
Do you have a favourite piece in the Sex On Your Sleeve collection?
I’m still working like a madwoman finishing everything so when I’m done I’ll let you know!
What sort of symbolism are you hoping to imbue into your work by combining thrifted fashion pieces with erotic-romantic embroidered imagery?
There’s something very intimate about wearing clothes. About putting something someone made on your body, and then taking it out into the world. I don’t even see it as “sexy,” it’s more spiritual, I would say. The pieces I’m embroidering say something about the emotional component of my fantasies, which I don’t even talk about because I’m a very private person. Contrary to what people think of me sharing nudes on Instagram, I’m actually very withholding. I’m not comfortable with direct self-disclosure. But I can communicate my thoughts and feelings visually. So it feels like I’m sharing something of myself without losing myself, by creating these works.
I’ve chosen clothes that are very wearable and they can fit at least one size up and two sizes down from me – or at least that’s what I’m hoping. I see this exhibit as being mainly fashion-inspired, with erotic and romantic themes, rather than being a glamour work with fashion themes.
My op shop clothes turned out to be tinier and also, I realised, really sentimental for me (despite the ridiculously low price I got them for). I decided to exhibit clothes that are more democratically sized and shaped. They’re from fast fashion sales, but I wanted to make them more personal. I’ve recently been thinking about the human and environmental cost of fast fashion and how awful it is that we are making women in Third World countries suffer, and big businesses richer, by buying clothes that everyone else is buying. So much money is thrown away so we can look like someone on a magazine cover - who doesn’t even look like that without an army of stylists, a state-of-the-art lighting set-up, or hours of Photoshop retouching.
The exhibition is said to be akin to “a kinky closet… featuring clothing items audience members can touch, photograph and try on”... is there a conceptual goal in making this installation interactive? Why do you think it is important for the audience to be involved in the artwork(s)?
I’ve walked a VAMFF 2018 runway, attended a couple of runway shows at the recently concluded Fashion Week, and saw the You Can’t Do That exhibit at the Melbourne Museum, and the House of Dior exhibit at the NGV before that. And I saw how static and boring fashion-show fashion is, even if the designer does amazing work. It’s essentially a parade of hangers on high heels, amid a sea of smartphones. I’d rather look at stuff at an op shop or a curated vintage shop, where I can spend hours trying and touching things on, and not be hounded by a retail assistant. I think fashion, a 3D art form, is better treated like an installation, rather than a flatter form like a painting. And the best way to appreciate a garment is to wear it and see what kind of person you transform into. Different heights and body shapes and sizes will also change the way the garment moves. So your uniqueness makes the look of the outfit unique and I think that’s a special relationship. A personal relationship.
Having played the roles of both model and artist lends a certain unique perspective on art-making. Why do you think you are drawn to exploring both aspects and in what ways do you think exploring both sides benefits you as a creative?
I do life-modelling and photographic modelling, and some of my most enjoyable modelling experiences have always been the opportunity to learn how exceptionally talented visual artists and photographers work. I love asking visual artists and photographers about their gear, their techniques, what inspires them, etc. When I’m sitting for a high school or university art class, I always pay attention to what the teachers tell the students. So it’s like getting an art education without going to art school. I don’t think I would have had the confidence to become a visual artist or photographer if I didn’t become a model first. And I’ve been very lucky to have had artists and photographers who supported me 100%. My first 35 mm film SLR camera was loaned to me by a photographer. I’ve received expired film and incredible offers on secondhand digital SLRs from photographers. For my first art show last month, an artist friend I met at a life drawing class at Deakin gave me really awesome paper because at the time I couldn’t afford exhibition-quality art paper.
Who are some of your greatest artistic inspirations? How do you find yourself sharing that inspiration through your own works?
When I first started learning about figurative art, I was inspired by the Old Man Greats of figurative art. Degas. Rodin. Schiele. Saudek. I’m still a fan but these days I’m trying to learn more about, and be inspired by, non-men artists and queer artists and non-white artists. One of my new muses is Camille Claudel, who is best known for her passionate and tragic affair with Rodin. Her sculptures were censored because they were even more erotic than Rodin’s, and she was a young woman who wanted to be educated, and who wanted to make art, at a time when it was not acceptable for women to do so. Her family was very unsupportive, and they eventually committed her to a psychiatric facility. If you google her, most of the links are about her relationship with Rodin. But these days there are more images of her work, too. There are some very beautifully written essays about her art as well, not just the controversial aspects of her life.
As a young female artist and model, I often feel like people want to believe I’m exposing my whole being to them. Like it’s not enough to just do good art. Everything has to be a deeply heartfelt confession. A woman has to always be giving herself away, in sex, in emotional labour, for people to take an interest for at least a few moments – and then they move on to the next thing on the to-do list. And that’s why I wanted this exhibit to be about culture and ideas. It’s not asking people to look at me and feel they’ve seen the “real” me. It’s not saying “here I am, accept me” to a room full of people I don’t know. It’s just me saying “I made something cool today.”
What other artistic mediums do you find yourself experimenting with the most?
These days, soft pastels! It’s a long way away from the first medium I experimented with, which was expired makeup :)
Is there a there an artistic medium you would like to experiment with further?
I want to get into fashion design, not so much because I want to become a fashion designer, but because I want to make my own clothes, and clothes for people I like. I get a 20% discount on fabrics because of my photography job at a fabric store so I ought to make the most of it!
How did you come up with the title for the exhibition?
You know the saying “you wear your heart on your sleeve?” I thought “sex on your sleeve” might work, because these are erotic images people that people wear. I’m not sure that captures everything I want to do in this exhibit – or everything I’ve said in this interview - but titles have always been my weakness.
Angela Biscotti is an art model, visual artist and photographer. Her Egon Schiele-sque Texta illustration of Ru Paul’s Drag Race Season 10 winner Aquaria was re-posted by the famous lewk queen on 22nd June 2018. She is inspired by modern art and sculpture, vintage French erotica, fetish fashion, and mash-ups between pop and classical forms. She currently works as a photographer at a family-owned fabric store. You can find out more about Angela and her work on Instagram at @angelita.biscotti
EXHIBITION EVENT DETAILS Oz Kink Fest Launch Party / Sex On Your Sleeve Exhibition Opening Night Friday, September 14th, 2018 From 7PM Q Space - 447 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, VIC 3065