By SASHA LEON, July 2019
Using BDSM as a healing ritual, artist Kat Toronto aka Miss Meatface, presents a body of work that evokes cinematic visual poetry. Her performance-based images explore cultural ideals of feminine beauty and the objectification of women. By toying with the push and pull of dominance and submission, and the act of revealing and concealing, her artwork presents a voice that uniquely addresses her fantasies and unravels her performance with equal doses of drama and mystery. Miss Meatface recalls the past while celebrating the present through the juxtaposition of contemporary and historical references.
Her newly realized zine, a 24-page booklet of full-color double-exposure photographs, is a perfect example. She took inspiration from 19th century art critic John Ruskin resulting in a unison of vulgarity and beauty -with the help of a Polaroid OneStep+ camera. "John Ruskin described orchids as “prurient apparitions” and made it no secret his disdain for his fellow Victorians’ obsession with this “over-sexualized” flower,” Toronto stated.
The contemporary elements she uses? The latex as skin, BDSM paraphernalia, the wig, the cigarette. All of these components have become Miss Meatfaces’ signature look. In one series, she plays the BDSM housewife as part of her narrative as a means to show her power over the household, and in some instances, she becomes the household in the form of furniture. In her digital photo "Forniphilia" from 2016, she acts as a floor lamp; and in her photograph titled “Household Chores” she acts as an extension to a toilet brush cleaner.
There’s an aura of kitsch, a camp-y raunchiness, in Toronto’s body of work. A TV salesman, for example, narrates her video art while she calmly knits in latex. After a hysterectomy due to cervical cancer, Toronto launched herself onto a new odyssey of deep self-exploration to answer deep-rooted existential questions. “What does it mean for me to no longer possess the organs that are needed to carry a child?” She asked herself in the midst of the aftereffect. “It was these questions that sparked something in me and eventually led me to delve into my feelings.”
Sasha Leon: We loved your exhibit at The Untitled Space, how long have you been working with curator Indira Cesarine?
Kat Toronto (Miss Meatface): I’ve been working with Indira since late 2016 when my piece “Between The Devil” was chosen to be a part of the “UPRISE/ANGRY WOMEN” group exhibition at Untitled Space. July’s Miss Meatface event and exhibition went fantastically. I think Indira and I make a great team and I was excited to finally meet her in person!
SL: Tell us how you first conceived of your persona “Miss Meatface”.
KT: My Miss Meatface persona began evolving around mid-2014. This was a year after I'd undergone a total hysterectomy after finding out that I had a rare form of cervical cancer at the age of 29. I was also incredibly unhappy in my relationship at the time and so I began taking self portraits that reflected how I felt inside: emotionally bruised. I took up the art of special effects makeup and gave myself bloody gaping wounds on my face, black eyes and bloody noses and used all of the outward signs of domestic violence in order to make a visual statement. It was at this point that I came up with the name Miss Meatface. Since then she's gone through a number of evolutions: she began as a much more sexually raw organism than she is today and I expect her to continue to evolve into something completely different from what she is right now.
SL: What is the main message you’re trying to get across through Miss Meatface’s persona?
KT: Miss Meatface has allowed me to explore parts of myself emotionally, mentally, and physically that I don’t think I could have explored on my own. Miss Meatface enables me to step out of the person Kat Toronto and become someone so completely different and interact with the world around me in a different way. At first when people see my work I think they are bewildered or titillated with the bizarre subject at hand, but from there if they choose to delve deeper into what is going on in the image a whole set of questions begin to pop up in their minds and inspire them to further inquire within themselves.
SL: Where do you source your costumes?
KT: Many of my Meatface ensembles come from vintage shops. I am also lucky to have a group of incredibly talented friends who are latex clothing designers.
SL: Do you personally have a latex fetish?
KT: I’ve been drawn to latex clothing and the BDSM and Fetish scene since my early 20’s and it has consistently played a large role in both my artwork and in my personal life. I like to keep a definite line drawn between the two but on occasion they may cross and become blurred.
SL: Where do you get your inspiration for your shoots?
KT: I visit thrift shops on a regular basis and I am always on the hunt for weird items that I can incorporate into shoots and often my Miss Meatface shoot inspiration comes from the discovery of an object. When it comes to finding locations, I will either search out unique hotels or B & B’s or ask around to friends and family if they have a space or know of someone who does.
SL: In your artist talk at The Untitled Space, you mentioned your self-portraits vary when put in different environments, i.e. California vs. London. Can you point out some of these differences?
KT: Probably the most obvious difference is that in most of the California images I am the only one in the photograph because my husband (who is my main MeatMaid) was back in London at the time of the shoot. Also, many of the California images were shot at locations that belong to friends or family members, compared to Meatface UK shoots that were mostly done in hotels and B&B’s.
SL: How do you relate your hysterectomy to Miss Meatface?
KT: In 2013 soon after returning home from the hospital after undergoing the hysterectomy I found myself standing in my bedroom with questions frantically racing through my head that led me to delve into my sexuality, my body, and the world around me via the medium of photography, ultimately leading me to the creation of Miss Meatface.
SL: You’ve mentioned your husband and ex are a huge influence in your exploration with Miss Meatface. Can you fill us in on that?
KT: Miss Meatface evolved out of a culmination of events that all happened to coincide around the same time and the experience I had in my previous long-term relationship definitely acted as one of the main catalysts in the development of Miss Meatface. It was only through meeting my husband that Meatface truly was able to take flight and explore territory that I’d never imagined I would the opportunity to explore. My husband introduced me to a whole new world that would subsequently become a very important part of my life and integral to my art.
SL: You work will be at The Watermill Center’s 26th Annual Benefit, with your gallery being a partner. What's the inspiration for the artwork, “Demure Debutante” that will be featured in the auction?
KT: “Demure Debutante” comes from the “Many Faces of Meatface” series. One of MissMeatface’s persona’s is the “Demure Debutante” who can be described as “pleasantly coy in company and enjoys spending her time arranging flowers for the dinner party as well as cooking up a smashingly scrumptious mint green Jello mold for her guests.”
SL: You are currently represented in The Untitled Space gallery; can you share any other upcoming exhibits or events we can look out for your work in NYC this year?
KT: I am delighted to have a piece in the 28th annual “Take Home A Nude” art party and auction at Sotheby’s to benefit the New York Academy of Art on October 15th along with a selection of other artists from The Untitled Space. WM
Sasha Leon is a NYC-based fashion editor that recently dove into art writing. She was born in California and raised in Mexico. She lives in Brooklyn with her dog Momo.view all articles from this author