Not often does artist Shelbi Schroeder exhibit work that doesn’t remind us we’re human. Whether she’s laying naked as part of a performance piece or taking daily nude self-portraits with a FujiFilm Instax camera, her work addresses body image — particularly her own. It tackles society’s digitally airbrushed messages that seem to say, You can’t possibly look like this, but you should anyway.
In Reclaim, on display through March at Las Vegas City Hall’s Grand Gallery, Schroeder represents women when they’re free and letting go of restraints, societal or otherwise. Her digitally collaged patterns on fabric, which are presented as flags, are states of ecstasy, orgasms, moments that Schroeder sees as the woman reclaiming herself. It’s the artist taking her “hyperawareness” of her body and jumbling it with ideas of beauty, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, body shaming and other experiences many women are confronted with and that have long haunted the artist.
Almost kaleidoscopic in appearance, upon closer examination you see that the geometric shapes and repeating florid designs evoke body parts. Images of trees, eggs, flowers, fruit, windows and architecture are repeated, some elongated and muted. Color appears as if poured, and through layering Schroeder creates visual depth. The nine flags represent the length of a pregnancy term.
She says that as a survivor of childhood molestation, her work comes from a very personal place and declares, “I want my own body.”
The former Las Vegas resident (and UNLV MFA grad) created the works using images she’d taken while traveling the U.S. and Europe. The show relates to her other exhibit, Swoon, now on display at Sin City Gallery and featuring delicate images of nude photographs taken in White Sands, New Mexico, in which the body is a faint presence emerging or maybe floating in or on an all-white background. In both exhibits, she aims to combat images of impossible 21st-century ideas of body perfection.
“I’m always looking for ways to free myself and free women,” she says from Portland, where she's working on a masters of arts in teaching at Lewis and Clark College. “Every woman has been violated and they’ve been made to feel uncomfortable about the proximity of their bodies. I was so tired after grad school and so sick of still having body issues. We have to have a right to our bodies."
Regarding the format, she adds, a flag is something you plant in the ground when you win a war.
Through March 9, Las Vegas City Hall