Andre Veloux Is Championing Women With His Pro-Feminist LEGO Art
Female empowerment and gender inequality is a hot-button issue resonating globally so it's always gratifying when male allies join and support the conversation. UK artist Andre Veloux expands the pro-female dialogue through his Lego-based portraits of iconic women and women's bodies.
A womanist through and through, Veloux's Lego-constructed works pay homage to feminist luminaries from past and present including Hollywood legend Jane Fonda to younger leaders like Pakistani activist Malala.
Using a pop culture scope layered with a hyper-stylised aesthetic, Veloux produces visually-seductive pieces commenting on beauty, fashion choices, and societal pressures inflicted on women. The technical qualities of the Lego blocks, being that they are durable, lightweight and interchangeable, correlates to the many identities and roles women have to deploy to navigate in society.
Currently based in Princeton, New Jersey, the self-taught artist and #HeForShe supporter has been enjoying recent exposure in a slew of exhibits as well as partnerships with female-focused initiatives.
Konbini conversed with Veloux over email to discuss his pro-feminist messaging and gain further insight into his artistry. Veloux's work is also currently on view until October 3 in the extended group show Emerging to Established at the Krause Gallery in New York.
Konbini: I’m fascinated by your pairing of LEGO blocks and female icons, how did these ideas come together?
Andre Veloux: Once I decided that moving forward with Lego bricks was going to be a viable and exciting medium, I wanted to find a creative theme connected to gender equality which had the biggest impact.
Female icons are at the very forefront of the women's rights movement because of all the things that these women have achieved and the circumstances in which they achieved them. Women leaders in all fields, be it political, scientific, business, artistic or humanitarian are under intense and constant scrutiny. In the
In the future, I intend to present a solo show dedicated to these works. A single room with three-dimensional portraits in Lego of Jane Fonda, Lady Gaga, Malala as well as more works to come, the list is a long one, and includes Emma Watson, Tori Amos, RBG, Yoko Ono, Hillary Clinton and many others.
Your project Building Blocks of Change is centered around gender equality, how do you think your work contributes to the global conversation of women’s empowerment?
As an artist and as an individual, I am standing up for women's rights, equality and empowerment, and I feel part of that movement that is ongoing today. Art should be at the forefront of change in society; at its best, it raises important questions and becomes part of the process of change.
The iconic works speak for themselves in celebrating women who are role models and agents of change, the other elements of Building Blocks of Change are commenting on the grossly disproportionate attitudes towards women as compared to men in society.
The first examples of this were the composite portraits such as "Narcissa" and "Bodacious" – these were created by blending features from the faces of several different women.
The fact that these artworks are created using Lego bricks which you can take apart and rebuild in different ways, plays on the ceaseless demands on women to rebuild the image they present to the world in order to gain acceptance.
You’re self-taught artist, but prior to your art career you worked as a computer engineer and website designer. How did this transition come about?
My first career was as a web designer and my second was as a stay-at-home dad. As my daughter grew older, I found I had more time and energy outside the home.
I started with one basic premise, which was to make art that was also a physical object in some way, which is what led me to Lego bricks and ultimately to make tactile art with three-dimensional elements.
I was able to use my varied technology skills as the key bridge between the creative ideas and developing the methodology for creating the artworks from Lego bricks.
"Art should be at the forefront of change in society; at its best, it raises important questions and becomes part of the process of change"
In your previous joint exhibit with Matt Bilfield, you showed works from the Appearance series, which explores women’s fashion and their perception in society. Can you expand on this body of work?
I didn't want to feel I could only work with faces and portraits, I wanted another theme that fitted in with my gender equality project. I strongly remember a YouTube video, "10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman," that influenced me.
At the same time, my daughter was making her own fashion decisions, as well as grappling with school dress codes that were gender specific. These led me to want to challenge the whole concept of how women are judged, sexualised and very often harassed on a daily basis.
The argument is presented by the simplicity of taking an image of a woman, disembody an element of it and present it as art.
"Daisy Duke," "Skater," "Luxe," "Beach Day," "Anti Portrait," and others – all work as visually interesting pieces of art, yet despite being de-personalised and presented without comment, they generate all the same kinds of critical comment you might hear about a women dressing in such a way.
To me, this is the really interesting part because it mimics the way women are treated for what they wear. I really encourage people to touch these works and to connect their thoughts to the physical reality of it being a representational artwork.
"I wanted to challenge the whole concept of how women are judged, sexualised and very often harassed on a daily basis"
There is also a philanthropic element to your work – proceeds from your piece "Strawberry" were directed to Womanspace, a non-profit that aids victims of domestic and sexual abuse. Can you talk more about this?
Supporting organisations is a very important aspect of my work. A version of "Strawberry" was the very first artwork I sold, and the money from that was donated to a local charity for underprivileged kids. After that, I thought why not continue the "Strawberry" as a series, and donate versions of it to organisations in order to raise funds for them, as well as raise awareness in the community of their work.
It's inspiring to meet firsthand the people who run vital organizations such as Womanspace, and find out more about their mission. It keeps me in touch with the really big issues behind gender equality, and only drives me to work harder at what I want to achieve.
Domestic violence and sexual abuse are the inevitable consequence in many cases of societies treatment of women. The Appearance works are directly challenging this, there is nothing about what women choose to wear that ever means consent.
"There is nothing about what women choose to wear that ever means consent"
By Jasmin Hernandez, published on 04/10/2016