THE Gynocratic Art Gallery

value the brain & cut the priviledge

April 2017 – Dale Roberts

The Gynocratic Art Gallery is thrilled to be hosting Roberts ongoing series of needle felted portraits “Transformers”


Needle felted wool
24″ x 24″ —2015

(based on woodblock print by artist Masamitsu Ota (1892-1975) of actor Kitamura Ryokuro – 1949)

Q & A with multi media artist Dale Roberts, author Rachel Davies

Held in early April 2017

Davies: First, let me say that I am sorry I have not seen your work in person. It appears so detailed and tactile, that photos must limit its impact. Its intricacy begs to be experienced.

Roberts: Very true. The experience of the work in person is very different, and a much richer one for those that get to see them up close and personal. Just the fact that they are each 2-foot x 2 foot and you get to see how the fibres are blended.

Davies: This exhibition is highlighting your Transformers work, stitched felted wool sculptures and portraits of drag and LGBTQ icons. One sense of the word transformer might be “changer of shape”, but “trans” is a prefix used to denote not only change, but also connection across or beyond state or place. In that sense a transformer might also be “bridge builder”. I find this significant as I am struck by a thread of resistance to marginalization, alienation, or isolation in all your work. From your Outports and Distorts, your suitcase dioramas of journals and personal ads, and perhaps most literally the project of Mail Art, they are all, in some way, a reaching out across and beyond. Would you agree?

Roberts:  Ah yes, the idea of reaching out and beyond sounds quite right. I think it is probably a theme that has directed me from the days of childhood in my outport town in Notre Dame Bay. The isolation that came from life in the very small town meant that I built a vision of a world beyond the shores, a place that offered a realm of community, a collective that would give me the direction to keep moving onward. I didn’t have access to much of the greater world, but the idea of possibilities was there and making art allowed for dreams to flourish.

Davies: With a photo you can be unaware of the labour and patience I imagine it takes to render your subjects in stitched felted wool. The busts and portrait in your Transformers series are meticulous. They speak of a practice of devotion.

Could you describe your technique of stitching in wool? What are the physical steps in creating your portraits and sculpture?

Roberts: The act of needle felting is a one that requires hundreds of thousands of “pokes” with a very fine barbed needle to meld the fibres together. The forms in 3d of course are about an understanding of sculpture and the building of a recognizable figure. The 2 dimensional portraits are very much like working with a painting as I have an expansive colour palette of wool fibres around me when I am working. My fingers pull and stretch and blend various colours that I think might work in an area, much like a painter would circulate paint on a palette.

Many People ask if I have access to more hours in the day, as they cannot understand how it is possible to generate such a body of time-consuming works. As my mother would say, “The Patience of Job”. I was taught by her to crochet and knit (around the age of 5).

Screenshot 2017-04-09 12.29.43

# 313/333
Crocheted wools, yarn, twine over metal form
Screenshot 2017-04-09 12.39.37
Wood rings, rubber balls, netting twine

 In my recent portrait studies translation from a black and white image to imagined colour has proven to be a very satisfying and intriguing process. I was fascinated to find a black and white image of photographer Cecil Beaton as he posed in drag for “Vogue” in 1925. I decided to let the energy of the photo direct the colour choices.

 Cecily working

Studio image curtesy of Roberts. 2017

Davies: Could you speak about your continued commitment to rendering these icons through this technique. What motivates you to persist in this project? Has the practice deepened your own connection with your subjects? How?

Roberts: As with most of what I do there is a sense of volume and exploration that I have that follows me in a project. (Sometimes not always verbalized). . The crocheted “Distorts” installation is a series of 333 crocheted sculptural forms.  (The initial number was 111, then 222, then grew to 333 (which in numerology means a place of completion of unity…worked for me)

With this series of exploration of “Transformers” I have no set goal of numbers, but continue to be inspired and directed by stories and imagery.

The exploration of “drag” personas as a visual exploration began as an extension of my mail art practice and the development of my performances as “Dame Mailarta: Queen of Poste”. In the act of transforming my own self with costume and makeup I developed an awareness of others and the broad spectrum of directives that guides each person to explore this art form.



Needle felted wool
24” x 24” — 2016

Davies: Drag is, with its history marginality, a connecting and community building art, a calling out and resistance to isolation. It is a way of challenging forces that would try to keep the feminine and the non-conforming in the dark, a celebration and insistence on the visibility of vulnerability. Your careful work in felted wool is a contrast to both the bold, and assertive strokes of drag performance, and further to any insistence on a masculine uniformity. Is this intentional?

Roberts: The questioning of what we define as feminine and masculine have long intrigued me. I remember finding a kind of solace at an early age in hearing that there were fishermen in Newfoundland who knit as well as net make. My mother was one who could handle a chainsaw as well as any man. There was little time for labels and conformity when survival is a main directive.

It is this spirit of survival – of struggle, I recognize in many of the faces I have chosen to work. Their courage and fortitude to delve beyond the confines of imposed societal ideas of heteronormal.

Davies: Thank you Dale Roberts, for your thoughtful responses and mostly, for the reminder that the expression of the feminine is a matter of survival.


Rrose Sélavy (Marcel Duchamp)

Needle felted wool
24″ x 24″ — 2015


Frankie (Tim Curry as Frank-N-Furter -Rocky Horror Picture Show)

Needle felted wool
24″ x 24″ — 2016


Mathu Andersen

Needle felted wool
24” x 24” — 2014

Screenshot 2017-04-03 09.20.37

Mailarta – Queen of Poste

Needle felted wool sculpture
14” x 20” x 24” —2017


Lili Elbe

Needle felted wool
24” x 24” — 2016


Curtis & Lemmon

Needle felted wool
24” x 24” — 2016



Needle felted wool
24″ x 24″ — 2015


Boy George

Needle felted wool
24” x 24” — 2016


Madame (Wayland Flowers)

Needle felted wool
24” x 24” — 2016


Dame Edna

Needle felted wool sculpture
20” x 22” x 14” — 2014


Dame Edna Everidge

Needle felted wool
24” x 24” — 2015



Needle felted wool
8” x 10” — 2014


Dame Mailarta – Selfie

Needle felted wool
16” x 18” — 2015


Harvey Fierstein (Edna Turnblad in ‘Hairspray Live!’)

Needle felted wool
24″ x 24″ — 2017


Divine (Post Cards from the Edge)

Needle felted wool
4” x 6” — 2016



Needle felted wool
8” x 10” — 2016

Transformations: Dale Roberts/Dame Mailarta from Artimisia Mailarta on Vimeo.


Roberts uses knitting, crocheting, painting, sculpture, weaving, collage, performance, assemblage and social engagement to explore ideas of play, home, culture, tradition, religion, identity and sexuality. ” – Ingrid Mary Percy, artist and curator

Dale Roberts was born in the town of Point Leamington, Notre Dame Bay Newfoundland. He attended the School of Fine Arts at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University in Corner Brook, NL. He completed an MFA at Purchase College, State University of New York in Purchase, NY in 1995. From 1996 – 9 he was an assistant to various artists in New York including Jackie Winsor. Roberts has lived and worked in Victoria, British Columbia since 1999.

There are two central aspects to Roberts’ creative output, his textile based studio practice, and his performance/mail art embodied by his alter ego, Dame Mailarta.

Robert’s is a member of the International Union of Mail Artists Artists himself, next year -2018- will be ten years that he has been hosting Dame Mailarta’s CorresponDance of Mail Art Exchanges. Dame Mailarta describes herself as “artful exchanges … send me your words ..reach…dive into your deepest desires .. send you images .. imaginations…simple/complex…wherever your artful being takes you send it along and I’ll exchange it with one of my own findings and perhaps a work of wisdom or two ….” (please do send her some creative mail!)

Studio J  – 1324 Broad Street
Victoria, BC
V8W 2A9

You can see more of of the images from Dame’s collection here Dame’s Portrait Palace.

This month’s author is Rachel Davies: Feminist. Mother. Teacher of Yoga. Seeker of Art and Justice. (In addition to being good friend to the GAG!)

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