Designer Joyce de Gruiter gained fame in the 80's as a photographer where she focused on portraits. Next to that she was co-owner of art gallery Stelling, worked professionally as a graphic designer and has been actively involved in art restorations.
Now she designs and makes sculptures of extravagant, high-heeled shoes – to admire, not to wear. High heels have fascinated De Gruiter ever since she was little. This admiration clearly shows in her work. In the aforementioned 1980's, De Gruiter used the human body and sexuality as a base to capture fundamental desires and emotions though her photographs. She did this by using everyday objects in combination with parts of the human body – by fragmenting the body, the image becomes more abstract.
This fragmentation is still very much present in Joyce's current work, whether it concerns shoes, vases or other sculptures. Her fine art also displays a clear attraction to the everyday object – the object is taken out of its natural habitat, which results in questioning their initial meaning. Quite often this shows an ironic metamorphosis.
The shoe sculptures are made with various types of material, such as wood, lace, silk, pearls, 22-carat gold leaves or iridescent pigments.
‘I have been an admirer of Jan Jansen for years. What fascinates me most about his work is the originality, his urge to renew his own work and the relationship between eroticism and women's shoes. Jansen has boosted the erotic development of women's shoes with killer heels such as the ‘Linea Erotica’ and the ‘Turn me on’ in a way that was unseen before. His shoes make a woman more confident and sexy, even though some of his designs make it a little hard to move freely.’
It was Vivienne Westwood who instilled Joyce's shoe fascination. De Gruiter says that shoes are much more than just shoes: they are sculptural shapes. The idea turned dormant but still remained in the back of her head until the right time came to explore it. After experimenting with several sculptures, Joyce has chosen the ‘What is This’ shoe as the base for the Jan Jansen Shoe Treasures Project.
Joyce wished to accomplish two things with her work: to present an homage to shoe designer Jan Jansen and to all women who wear or have worn his shoes. For the 22-carat gold-plated sculpture, she used an assembly of casts made in a mould based on the iconic shoe.
The work of art has been placed, just like classic sculptured statues, on a pedestal. The Dutch word for pedestal is ‘voetstuk’, which literally translates to ‘footpiece’. She decided she could very well work with literal: Joyce has made a cast of Jan Jansen's bare feet, making him leave his footprint as the pedestal. The undeniable link between feet and shoes pulls the viewer to the sculpture, which contains the dynamic ladies shoes that point in all directions and the static bare feet of Jan Jansen.
Everything comes together in her artwork ‘The Crazy Shoemaker’.