Shedding skin and transforming the self are the themes at the heart of visual artist Dimelza Broche’s works. They’re ideas which she has been working through for a long time but, within the last two years, they’ve taken on greater urgency and personal application.
A recent graduate of the University of Georgia’s MFA program, the Jacksonville-based artist combines painting, casting, ceramics and embroidery to evoke lyric moments of reflection ... and uneasy acceptance. She takes her body as the locus for her sculptures, while her paintings reflect her interest in an imaginary liminal space, somewhere between almost-awake and asleep.
Currently, Broche has a suite of 2016 paintings on display at Bold Bean Riverside; she also has work in the exhibit Musing Women: An Art Invitational on view at FSCJ’s South Campus until Sept. 19—closing day, with a reception and a poetry reading.
Perhaps she’s most excited about her upcoming fellowship at Vermont Studio Center. She was awarded the highly competitive fellowship at just the right moment. VSC will afford her the space to deeply consider what direction she will take post-grad school, especially with respect to her mixed-media works.
“I don’t think it’s resolved yet,” she told Folio Weekly. “I am just figuring out the work and the process of creating the objects [and] I am a slow maker. I need time.”
Shortly after that statement, Broche underscored the manner that language shapes perception, not just in relationship to the differently abled (she navigates the world with a wheelchair), but in terms of what typically abled people find acceptable to voice. She explained that her research showed her that folks are most aware of their bodies when things change, and that those moments of pain are the times when we are able to articulate the pain and the change.
She then made the point that even when the imagining of pain/change becomes a focus for the typically abled, those folks will often display an utter inability to imagine a life in which they must confront challenges of access. They say things like, “If I ever have something like that, I couldn’t live.” The irony, Broche pointed out, is that in almost every life, a person will be disabled for at least a while, and be faced with very specific challenges. Thus, her research is also about “the difference between fetish and representation,” trying to “learn as I go, how to represent it.”
Like much of Broche’s work, the installation Reinventing Venus/Rebirth of Venus is beautiful in a St. Sebastian kind of way: The figure is pierced and taut, even as there’s a thread of sensuality running throughout. Venus comprises Broche’s cast torso, hips and legs as well as multiple castings of her feet, as if she imagines positioning and then repositioning herself in relation to the viewer and herself. These life-sized components are placed upon a gridded mirrored surface, reinforcing the notion that the artist is confronting herself. Indeed, it seems as if she’s probably offering up an ideological “wink” to Jacques Lacan (and maybe Olympia, too).
Woven into this archly ideologically positioned figure are craft processes that are as tactile and luxurious as they are time-consuming. To conjure the interior of her body, Broche uses needle-felted textiles, hand-sewn beads and embroidery floss. The effect underscores a connection to femininity and to artists like Kiki Smith and Zoe Buckman—both of whom use material evocations of the stuff of cis-female bodies to metamorphose and, in a manner of speaking, self-construct. Asked about her use of tropes, which often are seen as domestic, Broche replied, “When I am using these things I’ve always seen as craft, I want to reclaim and be proud of it as a part of culture and history. I am proud to make art with these things that are called craft.”
Since she’s come back to Jacksonville, the artist has been spending more time painting, largely because her studio is small and she shares it with her dog and cat. Turns out, the cat is not a very good studio mate. “You know how cats are,” she said with a laugh. Being back in Florida has presented more challenges than just a need for space. Like many artists, Broche notes that though Jacksonville has potential, it also has many obstacles to overcome. Still, she “does not despair.”
The phrase came to her during a studio visit with New York-based installation artist Mark Dion. At the end of their chat, he asked what her post-school plans were. She replied that she wanted to keep up her research while simultaneously moving into teaching. He gave her solid advice: “If you need to get a job and move to a place where there is not that big of an art community, don’t despair—you’re going to find better things along the way.” Broche said it felt personal and human. That closeness, in fact, was her favorite part of grad school, “that sense of community I was able to build with my friends.” Now she’s going out to expand her community even more.