Here she goes again, looking gorgeous in her empty pink candy floss home, modelling seductive poses for the potential passer-by.
She is Joyce, a character created by Juno Calypso, a London based British photographer.
Joyce has existed through the eyes and body of Calypso, the inventor of this fictional character who only comes alive at a particular time, in a particular setting, wearing particular clothes and using particular props.
The new photographs displayed at TJ Boulting are a continuation of her previous works, this time shot in an uncommon cupcake pink home in Nevada, California. The house comprises a basement originally built as a bunker by Avon cosmetics founder and director in the 1960s as a shelter during the cold war. The entrance and garden remain at ground level of course, but the remaining rooms stand isolated from natural lighting. The caretakers who lent the buried part of the house to Calypso during her experimentation are still dependent on a computerised lighting system mimicking the different times of the day.
Joyce still entices her audience with lavish poses and looks. Barely wearing any clothing, she is primed as if about to host guests .
A sentiment of loneliness invades Joyce’s surroundings and is palpable, rendering a pathetic reflection of the woman. Is it possible that she is waiting for her husband to come home from work? Or has she perhaps just shot him dead and left his body lying in a corner of the perfectly polished home.
Joyce by Calypso is a plausible character. In fact, she is the same Joyce played by actress Kathy Baker in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. I can’t help but wonder that this is more than just a coincidence when the resemblance is so screamingly obvious.. Just as Joyce from the movie, the photographs portray the desperate over-the-top middle aged housewife living in a Burbank suburb where each day is a repetition of yesterday. Bored and overwhelmed by her own comfort, the woman finds refuge in the self-delectation of her sour paradise.
It’s overly tempting to pinpoint the emerging feelings released from the photographs and oversee the aesthetic precision and decorative enhancements in each scene. The French windows, pink shades and 60’s furniture are Calypso’s signature style.
Although herself British, she appears drawn toward a kitsch environment suiting Joyce so perfectly. She nonetheless accurately seizes the idea of a retro housewife lost in lust and seeking attention..
In this newest series, Joyce is captured leaning on the kitchen counter, playing with her shadow in front of a curtain’s window, and stepping out from her bath. We also see her lying down on her geometrical pink tiles, flaunting her silver over the knee boots.
So far, I have been shown an evening in the life of Joyce by Calypso, a bit redundant from her previous works. The back room presents a turning point where roles permute. Myself, and the viewers, become a creepy character stalking Joyce from the outside. A garland of leaves hang down from pale columns and a cheap bench, while on a flower bed made of small white stones, the word ‘sex’ has been arranged in pink pebbles. In this area, all images are shot from the garden, only allowing to observe Joyce’s normal house activities . She is not posing nor seeking our attention as vulnerability surfaces from these particular pictures .
Joyce suddenly does not appear as pathetic anymore. Through this new angle, I feel almost apologetic, forced to step away, feeling compassionate toward her emotional hurdles.
Joyce is this representation of perfection, inhabiting a flawless body, a homemaker in a model flat with an exemplary cropped lawn. What could possibly go wrong in her life? That is where Calypso’s talent takes over and ability to make her audience cringe, rings through the scenario. Using a slight shift in perspectives, the artist induces empathetic feelings.
Is Joyce all women? She certainly is a part of Calypso’s personality. Sensuality, and voluptuousness are commonly attributed to femininity and on a broader scale, to women. In these photographs, Joyce’s excessive womanliness is melded with boredom, narcissism and desperation, and the whole picture becomes almost demeaning.
If we take this further, we might consider the current images when scrolling down our phones. Isn’t Instagram the power of showcasing individuals in their almost natural habitat and appearances, at times bored, concerned with their reflection to others, and in need for validation?
Calypso’s fabricated world is a demonstration of our own modern day pathetic and psychologically intriguing reality.
What to do with a Million years: Juno Calypso at TJ Boulting (15 May to 23 June 2018)