“Great Artists Don’t Kiss Ass” (Justine of the Colette is Dead Co. 1978)
There are always people who are ahead of their times, artists and inventors who create things that the world is not quite ready for, and for this they are considered crazy. Crazy until the times catch up with them, and then they are hopefully seen for what they truly are, brilliant visionaries. Colette Lumiere née Colette is one of these artists, ahead of her time. A snowflake of such unique proportions that the world must recognize her before it is too late, before her current apparition, one of glowing luminous light melts away and transforms into her next creation. Her selves of the past are equally as spectacular, however Colette is truly an artist of the present. She herself is living art. Of course, to look back is beautiful, but it is like glancing into an old looking glass, the image is in reverse. However if this image of the past is in reverse and so is Colette Justine, coined by herself as a “reverse” pop artist, looking back she seems now right side up. The times have advanced enough that her art seems perfectly relevant to us, perfectly current. So much so that she has been imitated and appropriated by certain public figures without due permission, respect, or acknowledgment. (Ahem Lady Gaga). And for this she is not bitter, she only wishes for her past and present to be preserved and recorded in their purest form in the books of history, or really rather herstory since it has never been anything else but that.
Colette is a mixed-media artist; she is a painter, a sculptress, an installation/performance artist, the original stealth-by-night graffiti artist, sleep artist, and the original ‘reverse pop artist’. Colette was born in Tunis, and brought up in Nice France. “I am very, very grateful that I was bought up in different cultures, it allowed for a broader view on life, and attributed to my unique vision.” Colette has been living and working as an artist since the seventies. She has taken on many different personas throughout the years. In 1978, she staged her death at the Downtown Whitney and emerged as Justine, of the Colette is dead Co. (Reverse Pop series). 1978-1982. Next was her Mata Hari and the Stolen Potatoes from 1984-1986( Berlin ) After that it was the Countess Reichenbach 1986-1991( Bavaria ), to the House of Olympia in the 1990’s when she returned to New York City and to her primary residence. Her current persona: Colette Lumiere manifested after 9/11, and is the head of the C.I.A: The Colette Institute of Art, whose mission is to” Protect retrieve and share Colette’s vision’. Colette’s art has been exhibited in, or is in the collection of major museums such as MoMA, The Whitney, the Guggenheim, The New Museum, PS1, LA MoCA, Musee dart moderne Paris, the Ludwig Museum Cologne, and many others.
Colette first became known in the 70’s. She slept in one of her installations in 77’ at the MoMA, and staged her death at the Whitney Museum in 1978. Besides Warhol, she was one of the few artists getting popular press at the time. Popular press was not looked upon as “serious” especially by the women’s movement. Women did not have a big voice in the art world of the 1970’s. Many felt pressured to work like men so that they would be respected. Colette, on the contrary just followed her own vision. Now she is looked upon as a feminist and has paved the way for the new feminism by being true to her “feminine” nature and not afraid to express it.
On Thursday night, December 12, 2013 IFAC presented a “Homage to Colette the Artist” as part of their inaugural exhibition. As is her way, Colette was present as living art. This time she sat on display in her “office”, impeccably dressed- unusually usual in her own style of “Victorian Punk.” Colette sat majestically in this office, working on something mysterious, as her own videos from the days of Justine played above her. No one was allowed to go into this clear plastic bubble of an office, however occasionally Colette would step out to greet her friends and admirers and thank them for coming, like a beautiful Queen greeting her beloved subjects. On view is a selection from Colette’s prescient first living persona, Justine of the Colette Co /Reverse Pop series. Unique pieces from “records from the story of my life” rare artifacts, and archival material from that period. 1978-1983. Early videos of Justine will also be presented including the cult film “Justine and the Boys” starring Jeff Koons and Richard Prince, filmed by Robert Polidori. This is something that she has always done, in between her shows at prestigious galleries and museums in order to bring this caliber of art to people who might not see it if it were only in museums. “I have also always been interested in Exploring alternative spaces and audiences,(high and low.) Places such as the streets, dept stores windows, clubs, restaurants, offices..etc..” says Colette.
“The “Colette is Dead” series was an ongoing conceptual work and parody to the solution of the dilemma of a contemporary innovative artist. In January 1978, Colette- already a well-known and wildly imitated by the commercial world, staged her own death at the Downtown Whitney Museum and transformed herself into the “Reverse Pop” artist Justine. As president of the Colette is Dead Co. Justine placed products inspired by the dead artist’s personal image into a commercial arena. Justine posed as recording star- interior and fasshion designer as well as a conceptualizer of products and the head of the colette is dead Co.
Opening Valentines Day, February 14th, 2014 Colette’s current works will be exhibited in a solo show at Peanut Underground in a show titled:”Metaphysical Portraits and other Experiments.” Her new works use the traditional medium of Paint on Canvas, as well as the classical art of portraiture, although her approach is not classical. In these portraits she explores the interior of her models, with the end result resembling individual “constellations” or maps of the individual inner being. Other surprises will be featured. The show will run until March 15th.
For more information on Colette please visit her website, http://www.colettetheartist.com, and for tonight’s show please visit http://www.leewells.com/exhibitions/present-exhibitions/colette.html