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Art Show: Vessels

Mme. Le Poisson

by Rachel Hays

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Art: Mme. Le Poisson by Artist Rachel Hays

"Mme. Le Poisson" (Madame Fish) is inspired by mid-18th century French fashion. She has become the home for my pet Betta, Alpha.

The vessel is constructed from two types of paper mache. The basic structure was made with newpaper strips with detail work done in a type of paper mache clay. I formed the clay into small pebbles and placed them in the hair. This creates the illusion of full, blond curls.

I then used acrylic paints on the entire structure. This became the base of the hair, skin tone, fishbowl background, and Mme. Le Poisson's dress. Synthetic wig hair was added. The ribbons are sewn into a handsewn headband. Other embellishments like the leaves, vines, raspberries, and lace are attached with gel.

Once the project was nearly completed, I spent an evening researching some 18th century portrait paintings to make sure I had the cut of the neckline correct. Coincidently, I found a portrait of Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour who lived from 1721-1764. She became the mistress of Louis XV, a position her father trained her for. By the age of 30 she had learned to charm and manipulate her way through the royal court. She had also made sure to acquaint herself with artists (as she was an etcher and engraver) and authors even helping to fund the work of Voltaire. Throughout her life her relationships were formed from ambition rather than love. By the age of 42, she grew ever weaker, but was going to make her exit with style. Being a queen of fashion, she met death in full court costume.

I found the story of this woman's life fitting for the personality of this piece as I saw Mme. Le Poisson full of wit, charm, and having a little mean streak. The color pallet of red, black, and sage is seductive. Embellishments like the leaves and flower on the headband add to the lushness of the piece and show Mme. Le Poisson's lust for life.

Detail Images

Detail Image for art Mme. Le Poisson

behind the fishbowl and hair texture

Detail Image for art Mme. Le Poisson

back with leaf, vine, and berry embellishments

Detail Image for art Mme. Le Poisson

Alpha the male betta


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