The audience is perched on a bench between two walls, liminally: one a sturdy, utilitarian concrete brick wall, the other a thread-bare fourth wall, framed within an open garage door in a nondescript alley in a residential area of downtown Toronto, Canada. We watch as a woman standing within an elaborately-curtained makeshift bedroom — an image halfway between a Deana Lawson photo and an Isa Genzken mannequin — is getting dressed and taking photos of herself in the mirror. But where is she going? Nowhere. In this contemporary age, with our little contemporary mobile machines, none of us really ever leaves our rooms. We can all relate to that need to experiment with our bodies from the comfort of home, adding and subtracting.
Best-known as @eclectic.hoe via her presence on Instagram, Natalissa is an influencer, stylist, alchemist, artist, and activist. Yet these titles feel too structurally charged to describe her adequately. With a chosen medium comprised primarily of tactile, maneuverable objects, her practice begins at the fabric store, the hardware store, and the thrift store, where she finds everyday objects and fabrics which she repurposes into an art practice.
Some call it fashion but it’s more complex. Recently, two used lube packages were chosen by the artist as earring charms, sponsored-content at its most humbling, openly acknowledging their sexual utility. “The omGSPOT stim serum has me seeing stars???” she captioned. While she makes no claims to be a community leader, her willingness to speak so openly about her own sexuality (as well her past traumas and insecurities) her performance work rides the line of activism and art without a contrarian undertone. Confidently striving to communicate honestly, with adjustment as her primary subject matter, this aim gives the work a sensitivity rarely seen in performance.
This first performance, curated by Becca Flemming entitled An Evening with Eclectic Hoe dealt with issues of adjustment, of the natural flux of time and space, and how fixed ideas have caused problems throughout history. As Natalissa moved, poked, prodded, cut, and paste, the audience’s role shifted quickly from peeper to active viewer to participant. While watching Natalissa dress, we first became silent voyeurs. When a look was finished, she would turn to activate her audience, encouraging us to take photos. When she struggled to get into a piece of footwear, an audience member lent a hand. Natalissa laughed unperturbed remarking, “These are ski boots. They’re meant for skiing,” breaking the fourth wall.
In The Road Less Traveled (1978) by M. Scott Peck, a book that Eclectic Hoe says changed her life, the author describes that “our growth as human beings is being assisted by a force other than our conscious will.” It’s almost as if bringing the surreal parts of one’s brain to the forefront actually makes you more real.