Rebecca Leveille's Future is Female
L'Officiel Art

Rebecca Leveille's Future is Female

Meet the artist who went from illustrating comic books to exploring the female gaze.
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For the past few years artist Rebecca Leveille has been having something of a personal and creative renaissance. Her latest series, The End of Love, even looks the part. But her stylized figures that are reminiscent of Botticelli offer a feminist twist: all of the power and sexuality is presented through the lens of the female gaze.

It’s quite the aesthetic departure for fans who know her by another name and profession: Rebbeca Guay, one of the world’s most respected comic book illustrators. An obvious question arises: how does a feminist creator fare in a world with predominantly male consumers?

“When you're a hired artist you just have to do a good job even if you are fitting yourself into a character or mode you would not otherwise do,” Leveille told L’Officiel USA. “But I also knew that often what followers of my work in that arena were responding to was, in fact, my altered perspective—the female perspective I was aiming to give in that place as well.”

Though the world of comic books holds a reputation for catering to men, it is certainly not the only avenue for the male gaze. In fact, the hetero-normative male view of the world arguably influences every aspect of visual culture, from film, to photography, to painting, coloring our views of society, and our values. It’s something that Leveille is acutely aware of, watching it persist even as the art world evolves.

The Panel Discussion (The Lovers)

“The thing that haunts me is how much of me and us all are filtered versions of a ubiquitous male perspective,” she commented. “I even think sometimes that the accepted taste of the art world has in the past 100 years been driven by modernism and postmodernism (that is breaking up and away some now) is also another version of the male aesthetic—the male gaze—and gives value to things that are inherently driven by that perspective.”

Leveille has been questioning this perspective with her work as a painter. In the past three years, she has produced three gallery shows: Savage Garden, Crush and now The End of Love. Where Crush focused on challenging physical ideals and cultural goals, Love pushes further to explore feminine sexuality and power.

Peacocks

“The trajectory has been very much about the ever growing recognition of the material itself as it relates to the non literal narratives I employ,” she explained of her growth as an artist. “As a painter I feel I speak in a language of pictures and paint and this marriage, ‘symbols’ and ‘sign’ in the most direct sense, has emerged as a driving element in the work.”

The result of The End of Love is a stunning depiction of intimacy with tiny details that offer hints at larger stories. Cherubs and flowers float through the scenes. An image of a woman embracing a knight in shining armor is surreally grounded by a plastic water bottle on the nightstand. In another, a nude male is posing like Botticelli’s Venus, while wearing a wedding ring. But what sets the paintings of Love apart are not the passion they depict, but the passion with which they are created. Leveille presents her themes in a way that is reflective of the female experience: joyous, colorful, and without labels. It’s a freedom we could share socially, if we’re willing to let go of our old way of seeing. 

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