Performance Artist – Colette Justine

Colette Justine

US / Tunisian Artist- Performance Art, Street Art, Multimedia

Colette was born in Tunis, grew up in Nice before coming to the United States. In 1984 she received a DAAD grant to spend one year in Berlin and until the early 90’s spent half of her time between the two continents. Currently Colette is back in New York. Colette’s art is her environment, whether it be her body, the streets, shop windows or her loft. They are all settings for her art to happen in. Colette began her career as a painter, turning to performance art, which “sets out to create a quality of experience that locates itself” in the environment. Performance art is a significant new art form and one which Colette felt could convey her meaning in a way not possible through traditional means. Colette’s environments are made of silk, satin, lace, mysterious back-lighting and “deadly feminine magic codes.” Though everything in Colette’s space is enveloped in soft, muted colors, off-pinks, monochromes, etc., she is hardly minimal in her soft hedonistic use of materials, recalling her early years in Tunisia where colorful Arabic rugs, tiles, and carvings cover floors and walls and give way to auras of mysticism. Above all, it is the color and soft lines of the desert sand which we experience in her environment. Her world of fantasy has become a reality. Colette’s street pieces began in 1970 when she painted “codes” on the sidewalks of Soho, her enigmatic messages to be read from above. In 1974, in Florence, on the pavement of the Piazza Michaelangelo, she drew a diagram of a room with white traffic paint and into this schematic environment she moved various pieces of baroque furniture and posed a young man in the same attitude as Michaelangelo’s “David” of which a large replica loomed across the piazza. Her “David,” however, played “There’s no place like home”‘ on a harmonica. Colette writes about and conducts these pieces as performances or rituals. “I dress up for them in whatever costume I may feel appropriate at the time and usually execute them at dawn not only to avoid traffic or police harassment but also because of the associations attached to those particular hours of the day the hours when most people are just about waking from their dreams, in other words, when everything that is real appears to be unreal.” It was Colette who painted personal hieroglyphics on her nude torso with kool-Aid and eye make-up on a beach in Jamaica, who slept in the window of Rizzoli’s Book Shop, dressed like a Victorian rag doll and who, with satin veiling and a World War I parachute silk, transformed her exhibitions at the showcase for performance and environmental art, P.S. 1 in New York, into a silk cocoon. Colette is part of the mysterious surrounding, truly unifying art and life. Other body artists, who no doubt influenced her, seem to use their bodies in self-destructive antics. Colette, on the other hand, blends softly into her environmental pieces with chameleon-like subtlety. Soft, sensual and feminine in appearance, there is a dramatic paradox to her work of the tragic and comic aspect of the women she portrays. (ro gallery)

More Information

Support Performance Art Resources

Performance Art Resources is an artist run site. It is not supported by institutions or foundations. You can help us connect performance artists around the world!

Every little bit helps, please donate now!man resting on ground head and face painted white, a knife resting on the ground to the left of the head.