In 2010 Kat Toronto was diagnosed with a rare form of cervical cancer. In that time, she had to make life-altering decisions as she underwent a full hysterectomy, and saw her marriage of 13 years come to an end. Toronto, forced to question and confront her personal ideas of femininity, found comfort in her photographing self-portraits. These images visually expressed her internal pain; they depicted her with black eyes, bloody noses, and other graphic wounds. “I could express my emotions without actually hurting myself,” she told fans at her artist talk at The Untitled Space. The personal project became a life of its own, as she named the woman in the photographs, Miss Meatface.
As she healed and grew, so did Miss Meatface. Miss Meatface has come to represent the duality of woman: the push and pull of dominance and submission, femininity and masculinity, repulsion and beauty. Her staples? Red lipstick, a Victorian-esque wig, pearls, a latex bodysuit, and her grandmother’s favorite pink bonnet.
Today, Miss Meatface is taking over the world. She recently presented a solo exhibit at the Untitled Space, whom she is also represented by. Curated by gallery director Indira Cesarine, the exhibit features a selection of artwork created over the last several years, including photography, videography, ceramics, collages, and zines. In the upcoming year, she will be debuting a book of polaroids, published by London’s Circa Press, as well as prepping and shooting for new exhibitions.
Check out her images and read my interview with her, below.
First I want to say congratulations on your solo exhibit at the Untitled Space! How has this experience been for you?
Thank you so much! It’s been an amazing experience working with Indira at Untitled Space and I feel incredibly lucky to have so many wonderful, supportive fans and friends. The Miss Meatface artist talk and zine signing was a truly magical night for me.
When you started Miss Meatface, you were going through some pretty traumatic events, and fortunately, you turned to special effects and photography instead of self harm. Would you say that art serves as a release and a form of therapy for you?
Miss Meatface definitely serves as a form of art therapy for me, she’s gotten me through some immensely difficult times.
I’ve noticed you reference a lot of Victorian era aesthetics and symbols, like the symbolism of the orchid. When I look at your work, I can’t help but think about the Victorian drawing, “The Lady In The Looking Glass,” and then later, the short story written by Virginia Woolf based on that image. What is it about Victorian culture that intrigues you?
As a young adult I was drawn in by women’s fashions and the literature of the Victorian era and then into adulthood I became further intrigued by the Victorian views on sexuality and how the fashions of the era played to these taboo obsessions. One of the first things I made when I first learned how to sew at 12 was a Victorian corset, and the rest is history!
You spent an impressive 9 years working as a librarian. Would you say that you’re a big reader? Is there a particular book (or books) that have shaped your life?
That’s a tough one to answer! I have so many books that I adore, but some of my favorite titles are “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë, anything by David Sedaris, Victorian true crime, and most recently I’ve read ‘The Strange World of Willie Seabrook” by Marjorie Muir Worthington, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
You also have a degree in textiles, which certainly shows in your eye for location, color, patterns, and fabrics. What is your creative process like when envisioning a shoot, or curating a wardrobe?
Very often my Miss Meatface photoshoot inspiration comes from the discovery of an object. I visit thrift shops on a regular basis and I am always on the hunt for weird and inspiring items that I can incorporate into photo shoots. Growing up I remember watching my grandmother knitting and from this early experience I’ve become obsessed with knit and crochet things in my adulthood and I love incorporating these design elements into my Miss Meatface work.
Miss Meatface’s wardrobe is quite enviable. I love the mixture of hyper-femininity and masculinity, beauty and repulsion- it’s something that I’m always drawn towards in fashion, as well. Would you say that by doing this, you’re questioning traditional feminine values and dress?
When I curate an outfit for a Meatface shoot the overarching elements that I look out for are color, pattern, and texture and I’m drawn to pieces of clothing purely by whether their aesthetic speaks (or sometimes screams!) to the Miss Meatface personality.
And lastly, what’s next for Miss Meatface? Will she become a social media influencer, will she run for president? (I’d love to see both of those things!!)
The next big chapter for Miss Meatface (no pun intended!) is a coffee table book of polaroids to be released by London’s Circa Press in the new year. Over the coming months I will be prepping for exhibitions in conjunction with the 2020 book release as well as shooting as much new work as possible…Miss Meatface is preparing for a world take over in 2020!