Zach Lanoue is sitting on a segment of stump. He’s hunched over a glass tabletop, outlining a contorted human figure in candy red paint. His clothes are more or less “right” – hoodie, black pants, shoes.
“I’ve been crossdressing for years,” Lanoue says. He stops. Later he explains: “It was more of an impulse when I was 13 or so and I started wearing non-male-specific clothing and wearing clothing in their not specific orientations on the body.
Lanoue’s exhibit “Wrong Clothes” will open tonight at the Yes.Oui.Si space with a performance by burlesque troupe Ye Mighty. By drawing, painting and creating clothing in a way that is “wrong,” (pants on arms, shoes on hands) Lanoue makes hyperbolic statements about gender, sexuality and the transformative power of clothing, contemplating why we even have a “right.”
“My favorites are probably tank tops,” he says quickly. “Tank tops and sweaters and oversized pants. You can turn any tank top or shirt into a skirt very easily.”
He calls over gallery director Olivia Ives-Flores and refashions her zip-up denim jacket as a skirt (with pockets!). Similar styles can be derived from leather bomber jackets, he explains, most rain jackets are not flexible enough (“but the material is great”).
It’s something like this that generally sets Lanoue’s process in motion. Achieving a final product in paint is a lengthy ordeal– Lanoue dresses and directs a model in a wrong clothes performance, photographs the performance, creates drawings from the photographs and a painting from the drawing.
“I would do it all myself but it’s sort of hard to take pictures of yourself as you’re wearing some of these things,” he says. “I have done it. Some of these are self-portraits.”
But every piece contains a chunk of Lanoue himself, who has worked for the past year on the project that encapsulates his personal experiences with clothing since childhood. By finding a medium to explore his unconventional obsession, the process has allowed him to consider the binaries that rule society and his own life, particularly regarding gender.
“There’s not a lot of space in between the genders,” Lanoue says. “Either you’re straight or you’re gay or you’re bi. There’s positive or negative or medium, but that grey area’s what I’m interested in.”
“I think that everything in life should have a maybe factored into it, an indefinite possibility. That’s very important to me, it allows for much more creativity, much more fluid forms of expression of self.”
For Lanoue, as for most people, clothing entails expression and personality– “sometimes we dress really flashy and sometimes we just wear sweat pants and hoodies, it depends on how you feel”. He simply wants people to be free to express themselves to any and every extent.
“People should be less worried about fitting into fashion trends and be more worried about inventing fashion trends,” he says, referencing designers like Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan famed for turning clothing into art.
Ultimately, “Wrong Clothes” is just about being yourself, even (or perhaps especially) if that means being weird.
“I hope that someone like my 12-year-old self might see it and be comforted to know that he’s not a freak and that whatever you’re into is good. You should follow your freak.”
[Wrong Clothes. Yes.Oui.Si. Opening September 10, 6-10 p.m. runs through September 30. Open to the public Wed, Sat, Sun: 12 – 6 p.m.; Thurs, Fri: 2 – 8 p.m. 19 Vancouver St., Boston. yesouisispace.com]