Perhaps now more than ever, the issue of sexuality and gender is a pervasive question for the psyche. As recognised in the work of Claude Cahun and Andy Warhol, historically the question has always been that of masculine or feminine.

     Drawing comparisons between Egon Schiele’s highly sexualised Girl With a Feather Boa (1909), Andy Warhol’s Self-portraits in Drag (1981-82) and Marcel Duchamp’s alter ago Rrose Selavy, Deanna Ward explores what it is to be feminine in 2017; where the borders of gender and sexuality are less defined ad binary. With the rise of interest in drag culture, the ideas of how these performers now represent a form of hyper-femininity and dual personality are explored in Ward’s work through the appropriate, appropriation of Dadaist photomontage techniques. The work highlights the prominence and fluidity of the modern female in contrast to the strict, restrictive misogynistic scrutiny of women in the past.

     This concept of fluidity and change in the outer-self of the individual, led Ward to Cindy Sherman’s film Doll Clothes (1975). In this stop-motion short, a paper-book cut-out of a young Cindy, dresses herself in an outfit chosen from a wardrobe of paper clothes labelled and sorted into plastic wallets. Eventually the paper Cindy wanders from book only to be placed back by an ominous pair of human hands.

     Influenced by this element of human involvement, Ward combines the idea of a paper doll with that of Schiele’s dressing and manipulation of the female body. As her title suggests in, Boy [friend] in a Boa, Ward replaces Schiele’s girl  with a young man in modern day drag make-up, interrogating the definite change in what is considered feminine. The decision to present him as a paper doll alludes to the control over women that is still present in society, whilst the scenario of the portrait being staged in front of an adult shop offers a satirical response to the pornographic nature of Schiele’s work. Although the approach is humorous and original, the questions and sincerity of the work are not lost.


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