A white wedding is a tradition originating in Britain. The term comes from the white color of the wedding dress, which first became popular with Victorian era elites after Queen Victoria wore a white lace dress at her wedding. However, the term now also encapsulates the entire Western wedding routine. From April 30, 2015 Umbrella Arts presents Relics of Marriage, an exhibition of photographs by Atlanta-based multi-media artist Elyse Defoor. Drawing from a collection of over sixty previously worn wedding gowns, Defoor explores the iconography and emotional importance of the white wedding dress and this special day.
A Hambidge fellow, Defoor received her BFA from the University of Georgia in 1973 followed by post graduate work at the Atlanta Collage of Art in the mid-eighties. Defoor’s, most recent projects has explored the structure and place of women in modern society. She often takes inspiration from a person’s connection to their inner spirit and unconscious world. Defoor produces multidisciplinary artwork that can be bold, mysterious and often very playful.
The images in this series are elegantly plain photographs typically featuring the dresses hung from a single chain, lit against a dark background. Defoor decided to take a selection of wedding dresses out of their boxes, cupboards and hanging bags and use them very literally and figuratively to create this mix-media installation. Defoor approached each wedding dress as a foreign object, and the results are haunting and thought provoking. The simplicity quickly leads the viewer to question; who wore this dress? Was she happy then? Is she happy now? Did the marriage last? The photographs are more like portraiture than fashion in the execution and approach. She hopes their rawness will force the viewer to talk about the concept and importance of marriage today.
“Elyse Defoor’s “Relics of Marriage” project is haunting and poignant. With enigmatic grace it invites a meditation on the time-honored rites of marriage, their contradictions and joys, and their deeply felt meanings,” says Brett Abbott, curator of photography & Head of Collections, High Museum of Art.