It is said that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. However, when ‘the beholder’ becomes a larger constituency than individual encounters (where pleasure can become visible to exalt the mind or spirit), ‘beauty’ is defined as having qualities that excite sensuous or aesthetic pleasure. And, within the twenty-first century’s new heights of consumption and assumptions surrounding youth/pop star obsession, what are these qualities that define ‘where to look’, or ‘what to look at’?
As an older woman I am the ‘other’, yet I have an experienced life to celebrate. In making this work, I question the possibility to employ media strategies and signifiers to sell an image of maturity to an audience infatuated with youth.
In this series of works, I assume forms of youth culture in order to deconstruct them with a pacing that foregrounds contemporary beauty signifiers for an assumed first easy reading. Beauty at a Proper Distance /In Song, for instance, is comprised of three large backlit dura-trans of a woman with rich glossy lips singing in a glam rock style. The portraits are tightly framed from chin to nostrils. Popular advertising effects such as glamour lighting, coloured gels and scale are used to enhance the image. From a distance it identifies as a twenty something perfume ad. Viewed up close, facial hair, skin creases and stained teeth become aggressively apparent.
The same pacing is used in the installation titled Beauty at a Proper Distance/ Pluck, which is comprised of black and white photographic panels tailored to the room’s contour. The work plays on cinema’s persistence of vision to emphasize the rhythmic pattern of the black bars between each cropped portrait image. These references to film footage and sequencing presuppose a narrative that draws the viewer to inspect the image’s activity.
Plucking post-menopausal facial hair is something I can do that Brittany Spears cannot do – yet.