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Sour-Puss: The Opera

Sour-Puss: The Opera

by Diogo Duarte and Jessica Mitchell

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Sour-Puss: The Opera is the result of a 5-year collaboration between artist duo Diogo Duarte and Jessica Mitchell who also work in mental health. Consisting of photographs, drawings and texts, the ’Sour-Puss’ of the title is a composite character sometimes based on real-life Mitchell and real-life Duarte and their life experiences.

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Duarte and Mitchell were colleagues turned and then friends. The birth of ‘Sour-Puss’ was a gradual one emerging through conversations and arguments where they uncovered similarities in worldview, their feelings relating to themselves and a mutual dislike for ‘positive thinking’.

‘Melancholia and a sense of isolation or alienation, feeling fundamentally wrong or at odds with the world, are the backing track to the work. Questions are raised concerning sexuality and gender, age and beauty, body image, and even the idea of redemption or reconciliation and how it can be possible—or if it can be possible— to live within the context of one’s own ‘insanities,’ accepting these as part of whom one is. Acceptance of oneself—the good, the bad and the ugly, or, as Mitchell says: ‘loving oneself, and screwing up, and loving one’s self again—accepting all the imperfections’. – From the essay by Anna McNay

Essay by Anna McNay
Published December 2021
220 x 165 mm, 148 pages
ISBN 978-1-910401-56-9

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  • Diogo Duarte is an Edinburgh-based, Portuguese artist specialising in queer self-portraiture and psychological portraits of other people. With a background in mental health and bereavement support, his primarily lens-based practice explores themes of queerness, ego, identity, expression and repression and mental health. Duarte works across several mediums including Portuguese XVII century tapestry ‘Arraiolos’. His work has been exhibited widely including internationally and his photographic work published in two teNeues x MENDO publications.

    Jessica Mitchell is a Brooklyn-born, London-based artist specialising in drawing and needlework. With a particular focus on working collaboratively her art is informed by an interest in issues of identity and internal worlds and by her work as a psychotherapist.

  • ‘The composite character bearing both biographical and fictional traits was created to expose the hypocrisies and inconsistencies within normative power structures. ‘Sour-Puss’ has no desire to 'accept' or 'assimilate' mainstream versions of gender and sexuality. ‘Sour-Puss’ is in the truest sense of the word, queer’.

    ‘She is neither passive nor an object nor a limp body for my eyes to feast on. Even though my gaze, when I frame the photograph, is irrevocably mine and not Jessica’s, conceptually it’s not just my gaze, it’s ours. That is fundamentally what makes this collaboration unique. The story of the woman in the photographs and her drawings, but also her narrative, arose out of many hours of conversing with Jessica about pain and repression, but also about happiness and freedom’.

    ‘The series has led to some honest and challenging conversations. It has shocked me just how surprised some people are that anyone would take pictures of a woman who looks like me … I think middle-aged women terrify people —we are uncategorisable, we are harbingers of the ‘doom’ facing us all and we are cut loose, at least potentially, from many of the roles society likes to impose on women. Somehow ‘Sour-Puss’ embodies this—that I might do anything—and, in fact, I plan to’.

    - Diogo Duarte and Jessica Mitchell