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Ficticious Bodies: Costume in Yvonne Todd's Photography
Curated by Claire Regnault

3 September - 4 December 2016 

Te Papa Senior Curator Claire Regnault discovers some of the intriguing stories behind the costumes used in artist Yvonne Todd’s images.

Claire Regnault, Creamy Psychology at City Gallery Wellington, 2014. Photo: Shaun Waugh.

A dazzling gown worn by Whitney Houston, a couture dress that belonged to Liza Minnelli, and other curious creations feature in this exhibition alongside a selection of Todd’s early works. 

Yvonne Todd is renowned for her unsettling portraits of women.

Working in the mode of a stylist, Todd uses the language of dress, including wigs, accessories, make-up and carefully selected vintage garments, to realise the physical and interior lives of her sitters: an unsettling, idiosyncratic and at times bizarre cast of cultists, Christians, and sad-eyed socialites.

In particular, Todd is interested in the construction of femininity and the tensions between appearances and reality – that moment of ‘latent hysteria’ when ‘someone is unravelling at the seams but it’s contained’.

In Todd’s world, as in life, clothing plays a key role in that containment.

Yvonne Todd, Werta, 2005. Courtesy of the artist

While Todd’s photographs are primarily studies of psychological states, they are also sensual studies – the airiness of chiffon and the clamminess of polyester, the sheen of heavy satin and allure of shimmering drop pearls against smooth, tanned skin. Todd’s camera captures their materiality with fetishistic clarity.

Fictitious Bodies brings together some of Todd’s most striking female portraits and ‘star’ garments, including a gold sequined showpiece worn by the pop diva Whitney Houston in an exploration of costume and character.






This exhibition has been generously supported by Cooney Lees Morgan


Principal Funder

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