“What drew me to Dominique’s work at first,” says Han Sayles, the artist liaison at Meow Wolf, “was [that] in this alternative dimension you find ironic touches of everyday items floating around—a parrot, an iPhone, a strip of bacon—and the visual effect of these objects being encased in geometry is that benign objects feel hilariously sacred. . . it’s mesmerizing, to say the least.”
The best view of Dominique Pétrin’s new mural is through the second story windows that encircle the music venue “Fancy Town” in the exhibit, House of Eternal Return. The windows reveal a striking hand-pasted installation of birds, potted plants and optical illusions – an ironic commentary on cultural symbolism and domestic objects.
“I play a lot with a provocative way of being crafty and so womanly in my work, in a way that is just kind of confrontational,” says Pétrin who enjoys that her mural brings an interior feel to a performance space.
“I made a whole series of quilts and the titles were like, ‘We don’t care about your alpha art’,” says Pétrin who speaks to the history of art vs. craft when it comes to printmaking or many mediums seen as female or less than. “[That title is] coming from the perspective of a woman quilting in silence. While the boys are deciding what’s happening in the world, women are quilting in silence.” Her subjects are serious: feminism, climate change, the internet, but her approach is tongue-in-cheek.
Dominique was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. Her earlier years as an artist consisted of performing in a post-punk band called Les Georges Leningrad, where she produced extravagant costumes and screen printed her own concert posters. Their performances went beyond the stage and into interviews where they would respond to questions with contradicting answers to confuse their audiences.
“The second I got here [Meow Wolf], I was blown away. Coming back to my roots as a DIY artist, and how I grew up as a young artist; making music, making my own music cover[s], making my own costumes. I felt like I was coming home.”
When you listen to early tracks of Les Georges Leningrad, it speaks the same language of her current collage work, bringing forth a new type of rebellion that, at first glance, one might overlook. The music features nuances of riot girl vocals mixed with modern, computer-age distortions and blips of elephant trumpets. While she is no longer belting out songs about eating with your fingers or satirizing Italian composer, Ennio Morricone, her rich punk history manifests itself in her raw attitude towards muralism.
“There is something very musical about my work,” describes Pétrin, “that is very emotional, that is very physical.” For Petrin, it’s the intense labor of performance that she draws on in her printmaking and whole room installs. “That’s why I decided to do these large, immersive installations. When I stopped the band, I needed that physicality and engagement with an audience that I had through music.”
Because Pétrin’s work is very design oriented, it can often get criticized for her use of objects in a pop-art way, but the layers of data and information that are pixelated throughout the prints have deeper social context. “I’m labeled as public art. It could be street art, and I’m very pop-y. I could get criticized for that, and I can get access to large audiences because of what I’m doing.” says Pétrin, she reinforces her thought: “Public art should be smart and engaging and even a bit confrontational, sometimes.”
Recently, Pétrin was commissioned by Banksy to present an installation at the “Walled Off Hotel” on the Israel/Palestine border. Her installation is a culmination of colonial decor and modern objects pasted to the walls that interact with real life furniture in the room. The hotel is meant to promote discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian divide, so her installation captured a lighthearted dialogue about materialism and domesticity. “It’s hard to distinguish, when you look at the picture, what’s real and what’s fake. And I like to play with that a lot. Of what’s…reality, and what is just the projection of our own.”