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Elyse Metaxas


Artist Q&A

Where are you from? What is important to you?

I’m from Melbourne, my heritage is Greek Orthodox, and I grew up with traditions that I still cannot let go of, no matter how illogical and against my personal values they seem. Shame had followed me around my entire life because my sexuality was never quite as private as people wished, and I think that this feeling drives me to push through traditions and create enlightenment in my heart and those of others. Furthering the culture of my ancestors, whilst marrying it to my internal fight for feminism, is my primary focus at the moment. 


Where do you source inspiration for your designs?

My inspiration comes mostly from books and music. I have a friend who collects books with the most intricate illustrations, and every time I visit I find something new that I fall in love with. The latest was a book of jellyfish and sea life by Haeckel, which spurred me into trying to replicate the illustrations with embroidery and beading into the garments that I have been working on. Music is how I connect with my emotions. There are songs that have these intense memories and feelings attached to them, every time I hear them I can taste the moment that I connected to them, and these affect my work immensely. At the moment, my soundtrack is a mix of traditional Greek wedding music and sensual FKA Twigs.


Can you describe your first experience with feminism, or perhaps when you first identified as a feminist?

I think I first identified as a feminist when I first understood what the term actually meant, and that over half of the people in the world were still not as equal as the rest. I also realised that some of my favourite musicians and artists aligned themselves with feminism, such as Peaches and Frida Kahlo, and that this was, in large part, why their work resonated with me so strongly, and continues to.    


Sleepover Club is about collective action and art making, but also about joining the broader conversation on feminism, how does your work translate the female experience?

My work is the result of years of change and enlightenment within myself, from someone who only knew tradition and made traditional clothing with the male gaze in mind, to someone who transgresses in order to create free expressions of my identity in garment and accessory form. 


Your work is very close to a mix of fashion and sculpture, can you speak about the themes and issues you explore in your designs?

My work has been an expression of how I have felt in the moment. For example, my drive to express the pleasure, love and unity that I have felt since opening myself up to the world and to my partner, is reflected in my HAP[PENIS] collection, which saw me create a collection of body pieces that sculpted the male body into a warrior for those exact principles. My SKIN collection is based on the idea that the naked human body contains all of the “fashion” we need, and in a world where shaming women based on what they wear is very apparent, I wanted a return to what really matters; that we are all equal in our flesh. 


How do you think the sexism in the art world overlaps with that of the fashion industry?

Fashion and art are both a reflection of our society, and they are both affected by the sexism that runs deep in all industries. The fashion industry is still a man’s game, it is all about that “perfect balance” of business and fashion, someone who can dress a woman in a sexy gown and actually get her to pay for it. Most of the major fashion brands are owned and run by large conglomerates such as LVMH, which have male CEOs and employ mostly male head designers for their luxury brands. The women who do have these higher positions need to do more to take action and bring awareness to this issue, rather than just joining the boys club without making a fuss. This is why collectives such as this one, as well as the Guerrilla Girls, need to take action in numbers, to get to the top and make sure that others are brought up with them.    


What do you think needs to change in the art world before women trans women and LGBTQIA artists are on par with men?

Women and LGBTQIA people need to be recognised and taken seriously by men and by each other before anything can change, and this needs to be achieved with empathy and understanding that can lead to enlightenment and passion to achieve equality. 


Can you share with us your favourite female artists/activists/role models?

I could go on for ages, but the people who I am most affected by at the moment are Frida Kahlo (inexplicably), Celeste Liddle, a queer, feminist, aboriginal, activist, whose writing reminds me that I have a lot to learn, Jack Mannix/Pammy Lee, an artist and transgender activist who is unapologetic in her fight for trans rights, and the one and only Merril Nisker, or Peaches, my spirit animal.