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Pillow Box Suite
light boxes, light box, video art, woman warrior, warrior goddess, intimacy, private personal moments, triptych, influence of technology on life, television and storytelling, television and contemporary society, intimate longings, finding inner goodness, two-spirited subtext, border and framing, boxes as frames, text and subtext, art as meditation, suite as software, suite as collection art as longing and desire, female in popular culture, Artist as Aboriginal warrior, pillows, dreams dream place, influence of television, contradictions, mythical characters in contemporary artwork, photo light boxes, intimacy, privacy, narrative, triptych, woman artist, pillow, woman artist, frame, popular culture

Writer Greg Beatty had this to say about this work:  “[i]n Pillow Boxes #1-3 (1999), Rosalie Favell presents three light boxes incorporating video images from the TV series, Xena: the Warrior Princess.  Inspired by Favell’s fascination with the show’s lesbian or two-spirited subtext, and consisting of a grainy central image bordered by strips of smaller prints, the boxes offer a sensual meditation on longing and desire.” (Beatty, 2000)

Lee-Ann Martin further describes Favell‘s work from the MacKenzie Art Gallery exhibition Exposed: Aesthetics of Aboriginal Erotic Art by stating,

Rosalie Favell’s fantasies focus on Xena, warrior goddess of the popular television program, in The Pillow Box series.  Favell’s photographs of the TV screen depict an episode of the series in which an Asian woman warrior teaches Xena to control her anger in order to find her inner goodness. She captures intimate moments from the original production and invests the images with her own personal interpretations of the erotic. The touch of hands, mouths and bodies - and the anticipation of the caress - define and arouse desires.  The central image is repeated as the border, framing and reinforcing these intimate longings. (Martin, 1999)

Favell’s work is not as explicit as erotic art; it only suggests the small actions that might trigger or lead to intimacy.  We are unaware of who the people represented are but the actions speak for themselves to narrate gentle private moments.

Favell work

The idea of  narrativeRelating to the telling of a story, or the telling of events, etc.  is suggested in the presentation of the  triptychAn arrangement of three separate images, usually side by side, to form one complete image.  and the reference to television.  Television, in  contemporaryCurrent, belonging to the same period of time. Usually referring to our present time, but can refer to being current with any specified time. (  society, is often used as a modern-day device for telling stories, and storytelling has long been a source of inspiration and renewal for many generations of Aboriginal people.

In this work the artist pays homage to strong female influences in popular culture.  Favell finds inspiration in  contemporaryCurrent, belonging to the same period of time. Usually referring to our present time, but can refer to being current with any specified time. (  stories made for the entertainment industry and she becomes these characters and presents herself as an Aboriginal warrior artist and heroine.  Writer Barry Ace observes, “[w]omen’s strength, tenacity and inherent value feature consistently in the Plain(s) Warrior Artists series.  Favell unabashedly inserts herself and her family matriarchs into appropriated likenesses of mythical characters including the sexually charged duo, Xena and Gabrielle, the powerful Queen Amidala from Star Wars, the kind and maternal Virgin Mary, and the brave Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz. Nothing is taboo.” (Ace, 2007)  This placement of herself in traditional stories allows the viewer to question the past and move forward with new ideas related to culture and society.

The title The Pillow Box Suite suggests a contradiction in terms.  Pillows are usually soft, while boxes are usually hard and unyielding.  If we think of the word ‘pillow’ as a verb, it could mean to have a soft surface that you can rest something on, and in Favell’s case she could be suggesting another human being.  Pillows are used for comfort and suggest a personal place where dreams and intimacy occur.  The box itself looks like it could be a television; it radiates light and the  frameSomething made to enclose a picture or a mirror; or an enclosure composed of parts and joined together; or to make such things. (  suggested by Favell’s border of repeated central images resembles that seen on televisions prior to the invention of the flat-screen.  The images Favell displays are derived from a television program.

Favell work

In this work, Favell could be commenting on society’s reliance on technology for intimacy and how watching television can replace or serve as a substitute for real life, or for experiencing adventure first-hand.  The word ‘suite’ can relate to technology in the  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (  of a computer software package where a collection of programs functions as a single program, or to music/dance where a set of works is performed together to produce one experience.  All of Favell’s images in the collection presented here do just that.

additional resources Things to Think About
  • What is an alter ego? Do you have another side to your personality that is different from what most people may know? Can you think of people in the mass media who have had their alter egos revealed?
  • Favell does not reference politics in her artwork, nor does she deal with resentment of past relationships between Aboriginal peoples and the dominant white European culture. Do some reading about the history of the development of Canada (try the Canada History website at for more information). Think about and discuss some of these past relationships. Why do you think Favell has chosen not to reference these relationships in her art?
Online Activity Studio Activity
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Create a sculptural  assemblageCombining many objects and materials into a sculptural form.  or collage

Writer Barry Ace describes, “Rosalie [Favell]’s art practice is conceptually based on the act of collecting.”  So here’s your opportunity to gather and collect!

  • Collect a number of images of objects from your family’s past.
  • When you are finished, think about family values, and specifically about what is important to your family.  What title could you give to this sculptural assemblage or collage?  How does the title hint at your family’s past?
  • Share your experiences with the others who participate in this activity.  Maybe you will wish to share this in an online environment, by creating a website!

Visual metaphors

In her exhibition, Living Evidence, Rosalie Favell includes photographs of herself and her lover. The images and the text written on the images describe a relationship between herself and another woman. The photographs documented their time together and the hurt and pain of their eventual break-up. Like the images seen in Pillow Box Suite she did not depict any images of their intimacy beyond the close proximity in which she places the two women within the photographs. She obscures the other woman’s identity, and in some ways negates her by covering her eyes with black electrical tape.

  • Illustrate an event from your own life by suggesting something about the event and the emotions involved.
  •  Try to use symbols or metaphors to communicate the message, rather than visually depicting the actual images or people.

Portraits of heroes

Director Patricia Bovey writes about Favell, “We are compelled to take notice of her musings on identity, and the perseverance of her search for self-expression and self-transformation.”

  • Think about people in your life or experience who you think of as your heroes or who have qualities you would hope to possess.
  • Transform yourself into one of these people and create a backdrop to use as a background for your portrait.
  • Think of images to include in the backdrop that will reinforce the ideas you wish to communicate about your new self.
  • Have your photograph taken in front of the backdrop.

Ace, Barry. Collecting Many Worlds. Exhibition catalogue. The Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 2003.

Ace, Barry. ‘Rituals of Collecting and Transformation: The Artistic Journeys of Rosalie Favell.’ Blackflash Magazine, Vol. 24:3 2007, pp13–24.

Beatty, Greg. ‘Exposed: Aesthetics of Aboriginal Erotic Art.’ Artichoke, Spring 2000.

Berens, Keith. Rosalie Favell: Portraits of a Young Artist. Exhibition catalogue. Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1996.

Bovey, Patricia. Rosalie Favell: I Searched Many Worlds. Director’s preface. Exhibition catalogue. The Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 2003.

Euteneier, Anita. ‘Takes on Time.’ Arts Watch, Ottawa. 2000.

Martin, Lee-Ann. Exposed: Aesthetics of Aboriginal Erotic Art. Exhibition catalogue. MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 1999.

Tobin, Fredrick. Girl guides Boy Scouts: Navigating by our Grandmothers. Exhibition catalogue. B-312 Gallery, Montreal, Quebec, 2000.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning