The artist Lea Culetto creates embroidery, clothing, assemblages, objects and installations through which she addresses feminist issues using humour and the aesthetics of kitsch.
In her artistic practice, she examines the subtle ways of upbringing, social perceptions and expectations related to gender, and how these manifest in everyday life. She is particularly interested in the process of objectification of the female body in contemporary society, how it emphasizes the significance of appearance as a means to control the body. The artist explores how the imposition of beauty ideals influences the experience of one’s own self-image. Her projects thus frequently stem from personal experience, through which she observes how the internalisation of social norms leads to dissatisfaction and feelings of inadequacy. In her projects, she contemplates the representation of the female body in popular culture, while seeking for ways to unlearn and break free from societal expectations related to body image. She creates artworks in the form of clothing and fashion accessories featuring motifs of biological processes that the fashion industry conceals, such as body hair, menstrual blood, etc. She does not categorise clothing according to gender, and pieces of her work can also be found outside the gallery space as wearable objects designed for use by the viewer.
She is showing her project entitled My life is a hairy tale at the Likovni salon Gallery, in which she continues to explore the social conditioning of the body. In her project 1.99 grams too much (2017), the artist displays the hair she removed from her body after a six-month break, to demonstrate the weight assigned to body hair and how the ideal of smooth skin contributes to the valuation of the female body. The project My life is a hairy story (2023) comes from her personal experience of wondering as a child why hair does not grow endlessly. She toys with the idea of whether being hairy as a woman would be more acceptable, if the hair was done up as a hairstyle. The artist places plaited hair in foot velvet objects and shows how this kind of hairstyle could look. She also adds a glass shoe, through which we see blue blisters, alluding to the representation of women’s fates in children’s fairy tales. How the topic of gender as a mechanism of upbringing appears in fairy tales, especially what message children’s stories convey regarding the issue of the position of women in society, is also explored in her latest project Blue Blood (2023), which was created for the Likovni salon Gallery especially and which also reflects the tendency of today aimed toward the repatriarchalisation of society. The project consists of a series of e-textiles and a large-format diptych, where she plays with symbolism from fairy tales in a humorous way, among other things she is interested in the metaphor of colour such as blue blood, which symbolises nobility, and the artist points out, is also the symbol of menstrual blood used in advertisements for sanitary pads and tampons. In the diptych I want to devour you … (2023), she deals with the male character who appears in fairy tales as the subject that gives meaning and significance to the woman. Using humour and role reversal, Culetto gives new meaning to this type of messaging. In her project entitled PCOS (2023), she addresses the issue of infertility and questions society’s attitude towards the female body, which is unable to reproduce, by depicting motifs that symbolise fertility and motherhood in fairy tales. She also explores similar topics in the interactive e-textile series, where the viewer is invited to reflect on their own relationship to traditional social gender representations by touching the fabric to trigger action on the motif and through play. Throughout the installation at the Likovni salon, the artist suggests the possibility of transforming the ways in which the female body is valued, emphasising the freedom to make decisions about one’s own body.
Lea Culetto (1995, Trbovlje) completed her postgraduate studies in painting at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana in 2019. Since then she has been self-employed in culture. Culetto is the recipient of an award (2015) and prize (2018) for special achievements presented by the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. She presented her solo project Deflowered by Lea at the Miklova hiša Gallery (Ribnica, 2019), the Aksioma Gallery (Ljubljana, 2019) and the Ravnikar Gallery Space (Ljubljana, 2019). She showed her project Petlje independently at the exhibition Everyday Restraints of the Božidar Jakac Gallery (Kostanjevica na Krki, 2020) and at the Kresija Gallery (Ljubljana, 2022). As the artist-in-residence at the Švicarija Cultural Centre, she introduced herself with the Marodiranje project (Ljubljana, 2022). She has also participated in group exhibitions, including Body and Territory, Kunsthaus Graz (2023), Returning the Gaze, Cukrarna (Ljubljana, 2022), and the exhibition 40 godina art ljubavi Vlaste Delimar (Galerija Škuc, 2020). She has participated in various international festivals such as City of Women, Red Dawns, Lezbična četrt and the Festival Račka. In addition to exhibitions, she holds workshops for a wider audience. As a costume designer she participated in the intermedia Do you have no shame (Ljubljana Puppet Theatre, 2022) and the production IKIGAI (Celje City Theatre, 2023).