Through handcrafted, poseable sculptures created with a passion for material investigation, Emilie Steele aims to challenge our conception of the term beauty and the frightening. Existing in borderlands, these abject figures depict the longing to be human, and to unapologetically express universal yet socially unaccepted traits. Displaying constructed dolls can remind us that we, ourselves, are artificial and constructed. Casting identical dolls from the same mold also makes contradicting attributes possible within the same character. Steele works mostly with the female figure. The image of femininity often seems simplified, so rather than contributing to a one-sided stereotype she aims to portray versatile, multilayered women who resist definition.
Writer Efrat Tseëlon argues in her book The masque of femininity that a woman will be finding herself in a stigmatised position as long as the beauty ideal defines the value of a woman based on her appearance. Therefore instead of being a symbol of prestige — beauty — should be a symbol of stigma. A woman's body is meant to be covered, changed and controlled. It is unacceptable to expose her natural, naked and uncontrolled body. In his book A history of beauty, Umberto Eco writes that reasons that almost always occur in objects as to why they are described as beautiful, are purity and smoothness. Any roughness or sharp angle would therefore be opposites to the idea of beauty. One of the main qualities in a beautiful (female) body is fresh and healthy skin where the colour emerges from the heat of blood flow. What specific colours that have been seen as pleasant may have changed constantly throughout history, but the notion of brightness and clarity within the colours as being beautiful has however appeared to be constant, with the dull and muddy as contrary. According to philosopher and theologian Thomas of Aquino (13th century) completeness, not only harmony and the right proportion, was necessary for something to be considered beautiful - meaning that an incomplete/deformed body would be considered ugly. He also claimed that beauty is to be measured through its adaptation to function, therefore a mutilated or a small body or object that cannot execute its designated task should be found ugly.
With focus on craftsmanship I've created Pink Scar — a series that consist of four unique dolls — which emerged from how the word "decorative" and the term "dolled up" are both synonymous with "beautify". The objectification of the restricted female body, the glorification and obsession of purity as well as the very image of a doll has been the starting point when creating this work.