Canadian photographer and artist Rachael McArthur (@rachael_elizabeth_mcarthur) creates performative images focusing on sexuality, femininity, kink, and fantasy. Being hands on throughout every step of the process of creating her images is important to Rachael. She is hands on in creating her sets, backdrops and props used in each of her photographs. In her series Hot Dreams Rachael explores empowerment through becoming an object of desire. Modeling for herself, Rachael creates a sexual fantasy world in which she represents her kink through role play. The work gives agency to Rachel to challenge her own femininity as she is switching between dominant and submissive. Hot Dreams is a performance, photographic, and video piece. The work is created in various sex motels, which provide a unique variety of settings.
The act of self-exploitation in Hot Dreams is a power grab. Completely over being objectified by men and viewed through the lens of a patriarchal society Rachael began Hot Dreams as a way to liberate herself. “I have taken back my power to define myself as a sexually liberated woman with a strong voice through the kink and BDSM community. In my work, I fight against the notion that I am an object created solely for men, to entertain them/society and be “hot” for them to consume.” Rachael was bothered by the idea that when men explored their sexuality, there weren’t labels or terms for them to follow. Women on the other hand could be easily labeled dirty, slutty, etc. just by others creating a narrative for them. Through Hot Dreams Rachael is able to celebrate and own her sexuality while enacting ownership over her body and her experiences. Hot Dreams allows the viewer to see directly through Rachael’s lens.
Perhaps the most intriguing piece of Hot Dreams is its main character, Blanche Dumont. Blanche Dumont is an alternate identity created by Rachael. Inspired by the masking fetish in the kink community, specifically men using silicone and latex costumes to explore their feminine sides through an alternate body and an alternate identity. Men typically do this because they feel empowered through possessing the body of a female. Rachael discovered Blanche to see if she would be able to experience the same feeling of empowerment. She did, and through this she found a safe way to explore her kinks. The act of getting ready and becoming Blanche Dubois has become a ritual practice. Blanche’s mask is used as a tool to remove Rachael’s identity when worn. Though Rachael’s identity disappears when she becomes Blanche, it’s still a way for Rachael to be in control of her body and her image.
It becomes a state of rebellion: being accepted into a community that is using a female body for empowerment.
Rachael received a BFA in Photography from the Ontario College of Art and Design University and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.