Makeup as Muse

Makeup as Muse: Michelle Murphy's out of this world makeup photography

Michelle MurphyA few months ago I was watching the Instagram stories of one of the many beauty bloggers I follow, and she was at an exhibition full of stunning macro photos of makeup.  I knew immediately the artist behind them would be the next Makeup as Muse installment.  Michelle Murphy received a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art and a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  She spent over a decade working as a photographer for NASA, and it's this experience that influenced a series of beauty and makeup-related photographs that she began in 2011.  Since I am both bad explaining another artist's work and rather tired today, I figured I'd let an excerpt from Murphy's artist statement provide an overview of the themes in this series:  "Working in a culture where the attainment of beauty is paramount and science strives to engineer the ultimate look, my photography explores the relationship between consumption and rebellion of these ideals. What contemporary advertising and media culture continue to broadcast as expected in female appearances provides my motivation to examine beauty products.  Inspired by Op Art, scientific imaging, and third-wave feminism, I produce slick macro close-ups of the adorned, treated body and beauty 'tools'. Through my processes of creating still life and tactile experiments in my studio, I playfully use beauty products as art materials changing their purpose away from concealing or accentuating my face. In the more formal images I repeat and magnify the subject creating optical plays within two-dimensional space. My lighting, studio props, and color palettes provide an aesthetic mimicking modern advertising and scientific imaging...Beauty in its contemporary context is my discourse. I desire to shift 'the gaze' away from the female as a subject (or myself) to the over-the-counter beauty maintenance products themselves. The resulting images blend perceptual space and our cultural space…revealing the subject as abstraction, as metaphor, and again as consumable object."

We've seen macro images of makeup before, but it's Murphy's unique perspective that sets these apart from other close-ups.  Weaving together her background in science-based photos, third-wave feminism (yay!), and art history, these aren't simply pretty pictures; they're a statement about consumerism and how we perceive and approach the notion of beauty.  However, while the photos hold a deeper meaning, there's nothing wrong with appreciating their aesthetic qualities.  As the artist notes, "When you stare at something closely for a long time, it dematerializes, losing its original significance and gaining significance in new ways. If we surrender to the images as only formalist works of art, we become lost in the lines, the texture, its metallic luster, and its play with scale. The makeup is no longer the subject; the viewer can escape into stardust or can simply scan back and forth over a flattened space eliciting nothing more than shapes, grids, or metallic gradients."  I'm in full agreement on this - I can absolutely see myself getting lost in these images if I were able to see them in person.  The macro scale also calls attention to how makeup is designed for the utmost visual appeal.  It's an age-old advertising tactic, but one that still works hook, line and sinker today:  if we own this beautiful object then we too can be beautiful.  "I am using photography to reveal how an $8 manufactured palette of eye shadow entices a consumer. Its design and beauty works as a signifier of modernity, a utopic belief that you will become better by owning and using such a small thing. Because we already have years of advertising literacy embedded in our memory, buying this particular object becomes 2nd nature. Buying/consuming a product in this Western world is too easy when we think it is formally beautiful, and if we believe it’s necessary for personal improvement," Murphy states.  Indeed, by focusing on makeup's texture, shapes and colors, Murphy captures what makes cosmetics so enjoyable and, for makeup enthusiasts, irresistible. 

Let's get to the photos!  Here are some from the first Perceptual Beauty series.

Michelle Murphy, Purple Rain Palette Maze

Michelle Murphy, Bronzer Sunscape

Michelle Murphy, 100 lipstick gradient 1 lipstick color

Michelle Murphy, Eyeshadow: out n back again

Michelle Murphy, Split Shadow Chevron

Michelle Murphy, Viscosity Test

Michelle Murphy, Amorphous

Michelle Murphy, Turbulence

These last two directly reference two Op-Art artists: Bridget Riley and Josef Albers, respectively.  I've provided examples of their work.

Michelle Murphy, OP Lipstick (after Bridget Riley)

 
Bridget Riley - Britannia, 1961
(image from missomnimedia.com)
 
Michelle Murphy, Foundation to the Square: Chosen, after Albers
 
Josef Albers, Homage to the Square: With Rays, 1959
(image from metmuseum.org)
 
Here is the second installment of Perpetual Beauty, which is heavily influenced by Murphy's work for NASA and resembles otherworldly landscapes.  Once again, it's the artist's background in scientific photography that allows her to see makeup very differently than most of us do.  I can't say I've ever been to a drugstore and noticed the visual similarity between an eyeshadow and the surface of another planet!  "I am shopping at CVS for a depleted daily item that brought me into the store on my lunch break…10 minutes, 20 minutes slip away from me...I am thrilled to find an eye shadow that looks like Mars! NASA just announced the Curiosity rover landed successfully on Mars, and this product looks just like the fish-eye view from photos taken on the surface."  Having looked at these, I'd be so curious to see Murphy's take on makeup products that intentionally attempt to look like galaxies and other outer space phenomena.  I also imagine her photos of holographic/duochrome products would be exquisite. 
 
Michelle Murphy, Curiosity Rover's View
 
Michelle Murphy, Fake Eyelash Refraction
 
 
Michelle Murphy, The Origin of Pigment
 
Michelle Murphy, Lotion Landscape
 
Michelle Murphy, Foundation: with less control
 
The final installment of the Perceptual Beauty series depicts transgender individuals applying makeup.  I'm afraid I don't have much insight into the meaning of these.  Perhaps it's a commentary on how rarely the beauty industry uses close-up photos of transgender people applying makeup in their advertising.  While we're seeing more of it, along with cis-gendered men who simply enjoy wearing makeup, the transgender models in these campaigns still adhere to more feminized notions of beauty.  These photos, on the other hand, make us question conventional beauty standards and also represent an attempt to normalize non-traditional beauty ideals.  As Murphy says, “My photographic and video art explores the opposing positions in the relationship – between consumption that objectifies the expression of idealized beauty – and rebellion against what our consumer culture deems as ideal.  My work shifts the 'gaze'  from the female as a subject (and often an object) to explore the purpose and role of beauty products.  With my work, I am essentially questioning the nature of beauty ideals in today’s society and asking whether these ideals are driven from a personal perspective, or artificially created by consumer culture.”
 
I think the series could also be viewed as a reminder of the greater societal marginalization of transgender people.  Sadly, the transgender community still faces much discrimination and violence on account of some not being to handle seeing those who perform gender differently than the norm, i.e. people who wear "traditional" visual markers of masculinity (facial hair, short men's haircut, etc.) but who also apply visible makeup.  Whatever the significance of this series, Murphy is staying true to her mission of shifting the focus away from the standard female subject.
 
Michelle Murphy, Trans Shadow
 
Michelle Murphy, Lip Gloss, Applied
 
Michelle Murphy, Zir Eye
 
Michelle Murphy, Blushing
 
Following Perceptual Beauty, Murphy embarked upon another series entitled Nature's Beauty Tools:  "I am replacing synthetically produced and manufactured beauty products (fake eyelashes, lipstick and silicone implants) with nature-sourced materials that serve as compelling stand-ins.  Temporary sculptural props of twigs, mushrooms, slate, tree-bark, leaves, etc. are physically manipulated into tiny sculptures which are then temporarily attached to the model and photographed in studio environments. These materials are organic and often disintegrate quickly, so the photographs are orchestrated within a day of finding the source material. The dramatic artificial lighting, high depth-of-field focus, along with the large-scale presentation of the finished framed work sets the overall tone for the viewer, referencing both the fine art photographic history and contemporary advertising."  Again, I'm not really sure what these are about...perhaps a critique of the beauty industry's use of "natural" in advertising their products, a term that has no real meaning.
 
I wonder if the lashes below were the inspiration behind these.

Michelle Murphy, Nature Modification

Michelle Murphy, Pinecone Brow

Michelle Murphy, Slate Manicure

Michelle Murphy

Michelle Murphy, Icicles Beard(images from michellemariemurphy.com unless otherwise noted)

You might be wondering why no companies have tapped Murphy to collaborate or use her work for advertising purposes.  Turns out a company actually did use her work, but I'm not sure which one as my internet searches proved fruitless.  The artist explains:  "In the process of creating this body of work, the PR Director of a well-known makeup brand called me through my website.  They saw the artwork I was creating with their products and wanted to co-opt my work into their social media outlets and in return to provide lots of their product as an in-kind donation to my art practice.  At first reluctant to join forces with the industry, I saw an opportunity to show my work to their consumer audience.  The success of this relationship was two-fold, I was no longer a customer of their make-up and I was offered several spin-off opportunities to beauty websites to share my work.  My favorite moment was an interview with a beauty culture news website. The writer asked me a lot about my opinions and relationship to makeup and most importantly my responses were not edited.  I had this moment to speak honestly to consumers about the difficulties with body politics related to the beauty industry."  Unfortunately, the interview she mentioned doesn't seem to be available, and I was too chicken to email her to both conduct my own interview and clarify the brand that contacted her, but I suspect it may have been Maybelline based on this post.  I would absolutely love to see more brands using her work.  And one of my burning questions is what she thinks of space-inspired beauty, given her NASA background.  ;)

Overall I'm quite smitten with these photos.  They make us consider the deeper issues involving beauty standards and consumerism, but also represent a clear appreciation for makeup design and a desire to capture the beauty of makeup as object.  I just wish that 1. more prints of her work were available and 2. I was close to Chicago so I could see the Responsive Beauty exhibition, which closes on October 21st.  If you're in the area please check it out for me!

What do you think?

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Makeup as Muse: the mother of makeup art

Baltimore's City Paper is shutting down, but before they go I was delighted to see this article on a local artist who paints with makeup.  Gloria Garrett calls herself the "mother of makeup art", which I think makes her the ultimate Makeup as Muse.  By complete coincidence, she also happens to live roughly a mile away from me on the same street!  Smalltimore indeed.

Garrett, a 57-year-old artist and mother of three daughters, is entirely self-taught and creates, as she says, "folk art for the folks."  Garrett worked for the National Security Agency for most of her life, but was always drawing on the side - primarily black and white drawings made with pen.  It wasn't until 2005, following the tragic murder of her 18-year-old nephew, that she started painting in color.  From the City Paper profile:  "'I said, 'God, please let me have color in my life,' she says. And then she dreamed that God said she was going to be a painter, but she's allergic to paint. Then her mother gave her some makeup, and a light went off in her head."  Garrett began showcasing her work at farmer's markets for donations.  She would allow people to take her pictures and pay whatever they thought was fair.  Later she turned to YouTube to not only help promote her work but also highlight the work of other area artists and provide tips on marketing.  She also shares videos of her travels and her experiences within the Baltimore art scene.  I love this one, which shows her painting on the steps of the American Visionary Art Museum (a must-see if you're ever in town).  I also love that her photographer husband shoots all of her videos.  Hooray for supportive spouses!

Thematically, Garrett's works range from family life and religious scenes to still lifes and depictions of Africa. 

Gloria Garrett, Parasol, 2007

Gloria Garrett, Three Sisters, 2014

Gloria Garrett, Calling All Angels, 2014

Gloria Garrett, African Market, 2013

I had my eye on one of these two paintings, as they are relatively affordable.  Alas, when I wrote to her to find out what kind of cosmetics she used (looks like mostly eye shadow, foundation and lipstick to me), my email bounced back.  I am so sad since I also offered to donate some very lightly used makeup and brushes I'm no longer using and asked for a mailing address where I could send a box of items.  I also wanted to see whether she'd be interested in doing a commissioned piece...I was thinking if I sent her a photo of my vanity, perhaps she could make a painting of it with makeup.

Gloria Garrett, Mother and Child in Park, 2013

Gloria Garrett, Friendship Flowers, 2014
(images from gloriasart.com)

Garrett has adopted a fairly loose application technique in that she often applies makeup straight from the package/tube and uses a variety of simple tools.  Everything from her hands to plastic forks is fair game.  In 2014 she discovered lip gloss, which she likes to add to her paintings on occasion to "give them a shine".  According to City Paper, "She uses rouge, base, eyeliner, crayons—even nail polish. When she paints, she starts putting materials together around 10 p.m. and gets going by midnight. 'And I'm usually not done 'til 10 the next morning!' she shouts, smiling. 'I put my makeup in front of me, my Wite-Out, my crayons, and God works through me.'  She spends hours on the backgrounds, she says, and moves to the faces last: 'I do the face. I put the Wite-Out over it, I say I don't like it, and I do it again. And again. And again!'"  This process of crossing things out and repetition sounds a bit like Basquiat, no?  However, the finished product, stylistically, reminds me a little of various early 20th century artists but with a folk art vibe.  The flowers look a little like some of Emil Nolde's floral paintings, while the figural ones resemble Chagall or Matisse.

To sum up, I'm thrilled that one of the first artists to ever create paintings with makeup is a Baltimore native.  I find Garrett's work to be absolutely charming and unique - her folk art style is very different from that of other artists we've seen who use beauty products as their medium.  And I'm so happy to see that she was able to turn to cosmetics to create the colorful art she wanted to make when faced with the challenge of being allergic to paint.  Makeup saves the day!  I'm just sad I can't get in touch to ask her more specific questions about her artistic process, as my emails keep bouncing back and I also can't find a mailing address to donate some items.  (Garrett is on Facebook but I am not, so that route is out, and there is a phone number listed on her website but my anxiety prohibits me from attempting a call - the phone is way more intimidating for me than email).

What do you think? 

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Makeup as Muse: creative recycling

I had actually been working on a particular artist for the next Makeup as Muse for months - her work is pretty involved - but when the maker of this robot tweeted at me a few weeks ago I decided to hold off a little longer on my original installment and feature his creation instead. Meet Yslabelle (pronounced ees-la-bell), a functioning robot made entirely of repurposed YSL makeup packaging!

YSL-robot-3

Standing roughly 6'6" tall (2 meters), Yslabelle was made from hundreds of boxes and her sword from the Shock mascara and Touche Eclat tubes.  Gathering the materials took 14 months.  I was in awe when I thought Yslabelle was simply a stationary robot statue, but as it turns out, her head is motorized so there's also some movement there.  This is particularly mind-blowing to me given that I can't figure out how to hook up the attachments to our vacuum cleaner.  Seriously though, I was never gifted at science/math/generally understanding how things work so I've never been all that interested in robots; however, my brother-in-law is a roboticist for Boston Dynamics, so that, combined with my own inability to comprehend anything mechanical, has made me appreciate the art of crafting robots a little more. 

IMG_1963-1(images from robotazia.co.uk)

Yslabelle was made by Cyberigs Robots, a collective founded in 2015 by Mark Swannell to develop a collection for Robotazia.  From what I can tell, Robotazia is a permanent exhibition of sci-fi themed robots somewhere in the U.K. that will be open to visitors sometime this year.  I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but I love the idea of all these different roboticists coming together to build cool new robots and repair old ones for the exhibition.  Apparently you'll even be able to grab a snack at the "robo-bistro." 

I have to say that this is a marvelous use of old makeup packaging, and it got me thinking about why more companies still don't offer recycling.  LUSH, Zoya and MAC are the only companies I can think of off the top of my head that have official recycling programs.  Yslabelle also makes me wonder what, if anything, we consumers can do about it besides writing letters and signing petitions encouraging companies to recycle (and as I've said previously, I don't think the entire burden should be on consumers).  As we've seen with other Makeup as Muse posts, beauty packaging can be quite wasteful and it's not always easy to properly dispose of or repurpose it.  I always put the outer paper boxes into our recycling bin, but this still doesn't help the bigger issue of the inner packaging like plastic/metal containers and tubes.  Then of course, there's some completely superfluous packaging like Pat McGrath's sequin-filled bags.  Now, I am a huge Pat McGrath fan and she can do no wrong in my eyes.  I'd be so sad buying a product from her without those lovely shiny sequins - it just wouldn't be the same!  I, along with lots of other beauty bloggers, reuse the sequins for photo props.  However, if her company won't have some way for customers who don't want the sequins to send them back to be reused, we have to get creative.  Enter Parisian fashion student Ana Ouri, who has been sewing the sequins onto her pieces.  Genius!

Ana Ouri - sequins

Ana Ouri - sequins(images from instagram.com)

I am nowhere near as imaginative as Cyberigs or this fashion student, but both projects inspire me to think of cool ways to recycle makeup packaging.  Of course, since I'm a collector I don't even want to think about disposing of my beloved collectibles, and my huge stash (i.e., the makeup I actually use) is so massive I can't imagine actually finishing a product except for samples, so it's mostly a moot point for me.

Have you ever tried to repurpose cosmetics packaging in a more artistic way?  

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Makeup as Muse: Karen Shapiro's ceramic makeup

I thought I'd keep it light and breezy for today with these delightful ceramics by artist Karen Shapiro.  Shapiro found her true calling in ceramic sculpture after spending 30 years as a pastry chef.  As for subject matter, she is drawn to popular household brands; her objects are inspired by her fascination with the textures, colors and shapes of everyday items as well as the Pop Art tradition.  Shapiro tackles many common goods in ceramic form, but obviously what I want to focus on is her rendering of beauty products. 

Karen Shapiro, Clinique lipstick, 2013

Shapiro's preferred artistic method is based on a Japanese technique known as raku, which was historically used to create tea ceremony pottery and involves removing the pieces from the kiln while still red hot and allowing them to cool in open air.  Unlike the traditional raku, however, the Western/American raku that Shapiro uses maintains the removal of the pieces while still glowing, but rather than cooling in an open space, the pieces are then "subjected to post-firing reduction (or smoking) by placing in containers of combustible materials, which blackens raw clay and creates cracks in glaze."  The crackling has the effect of making the products seem older and/or more fragile than we might think of them otherwise, which provides an interesting contrast against these everyday, seemingly plain objects. Says one reviewer, "The crackle glaze does give Shapiro’s sculptures a very different vibe from that of 1960’s Pop Art. It tends to legitimize their claim as valuable objects deserving permanent counter space—as opposed to disposable packages."  Perhaps if makeup items are viewed through a ceramic lens, people might be more accepting of the idea of them belonging in a museum, yes?

Karen Shapiro - Clinique lotion and lipstick

Karen Shapiro - Clinique lipstick, 2014

Karen Shapiro - Great Lash, 2009

Most of the beauty products appear to be older versions from the '70s through the '90s.   Along with Clinique's lipsticks in the old green tubes, there are others like this L'Oreal nail polish bottle, which looks to be from the '80s or '90s to my eye.  (Speaking of nail polish and crackling, wouldn't it be cool if she made one of those crackle nail polishes that were all the rage circa 2011 or so?)

Karen Shapiro - L'oreal nail polish
(images from winfieldgallery.com)

Can you identify what time period this Cutex bottle is from?  I couldn't at first and thought for sure it had to be around the 1930s or so, given the Art Deco-esque font.  But I searched and searched and searched and everything I saw indicated that Cutex bottles simply weren't shaped like that back then.  Low and behold, the December 1995 issue of Sassy magazine (yes, I'm becoming a vintage magazine hoarder - that's a problem for another day) contained a photo of a nearly identical bottle!  Much to my embarrassment I never would have guessed this is from the '90s.  I like to think of myself an expert on the decade, especially on beauty and makeup, but this is one item I don't recall.

Karen Shapiro - Cutex nail polish(image from williamzimmergallery.com)

Sassy magazine, December 1995

This Revlon Charlie Nail Gleamer dates to the late '70s/early '80s, based on a 1978 ad I found.

Karen Shapiro - Revlon Charlie nail polish

Revlon charlie nail gleamer ad, 1978(image from theguardian.com)

But Shapiro goes all the way back to the '50s and even earlier for some truly vintage pieces.  I love this '50s era version of the Revlon polish.

Karen Shapiro - vintage Revlon nail polish

The Outdoor Girl powder dates to about 1931. 

Karen Shapiro - Outdoor Girl vintage face powder

Some other favorites:

Karen Shapiro - Bourjois Evening in Paris talc bottle

Karen Shapiro - Bourjois Evening in Paris talc bottle

Karen Shapiro - vintage Lyon's Cold Cream

Too bad I didn't know this talc box existed - it would have been perfect for the summer exhibition.  Oh well.  I couldn't find any for sale anyway.

Karen Shapiro - vintage Sweetheart talcum powder
(images from rakukaren.com)

Much like seeing actual vintage makeup items, all of these made me smile and ponder bygone eras.  Says gallery owner Chris Winfield, "I call them pop icons, except they have a little surface development and a patina that gives them a friendly, used quality...some pieces, many of which are from the '30s, '40s and '50s, are quite nostalgic. They have an historical element but are still around, which gives them popular appeal.  Collectors tend to buy two and three pieces and then put them on a kitchen counter or vanity, places where the actual items would go."  Whereas traditional Pop Art could be seen as a somewhat negative commentary on mass production and consumption, Shapiro's items exist without any sort of pointed critique directed at our current cultural climate; there's no sharp irony or parody here, just a sentimental quality that elicits pleasant feelings and memories.  While the items can evoke some powerful nostalgia, due to the fact that they're also imitations of everyday items, they lack the pretension of "high art" and seem right at home...in, well, your home.  The artist herself summarizes her work nicely:  "My work is fun, it's whimsical...I feel lucky I can make a living at it. It's not conceptual; it's literal. People don't have to understand it; it's already understood."

What do you think?  I'd love to own one of these so I may have to reach out to one of the galleries for pricing.  There is a Noxema jar on 1stdibs but of course I'd prefer makeup to skincare.  ;)


Makeup as Muse: Nail edition

I'm excited to share some pretty innovative works of art that use nail products for this installment of Makeup as Muse.  First up we have South African artist Frances Goodman, who has been creating elaborate, organic-looking sculptures using fake nails since 2013.

Because I'm feeling lazy and also because I think this description captures her work well, here it is in a nutshell:  "In her nail sculptures Goodman uses one of fashion’s ultimate feminine accessories – the false nail, which she layers and overlaps to create form, movement, pattern, and structure. False nails, for Goodman, signify a culture of excess and transience. The artist is interested in false nails as an expendable extension of the body – and has counteracted this by using the nails not to extend the body, but through emphasising size and shape to create bodily forms. The artist states: 'Some of the sculptures are abstract and consider ideas of oozing, spreading, and writhing.  Others suggest snakes and scaled creatures.' These enigmatic works are threatening and foreboding--their shape and scale emulate predators, which smother and overwhelm, yet are simultaneously impotent. The layering and positioning of the nails insinuates movement, yet these works are ostensibly static and, on closer inspection, fragile."

I am still curious to know how she attaches the nails together, approximately how many are used for each sculpture, and whether she sketches them out first.  I know I could have a thousand loose fake nails piled in front of me and not have a clue how to mold them into sculptures like this - it's truly impressive.

Frances Goodman, Come Hither, 2013

Frances Goodman, Below the Belt, 2013

Frances Goodman, Medusa, 2013

Frances Goodman, Ophiaphilia, 2014

Frances Goodman, Lick-It, 2015

Frances Goodman, Lilith, 2015

Frances Goodman, Succubus, 2016

Frances Goodman, Violaceous, 2015

This dress was produced in 2014 and I can't help but wonder whether Anna Goswami, a fashion student in the UK who created evening dresses out of fake nails for her final project in 2015, was influenced in any way by it. (I mentioned these briefly last year.)

Frances Goodman, Melusina, 2014(images from francesgoodman.com)

These nail sculptures are not the only beauty-related items in Goodman's oeuvre:  she also makes giant nails and eyelash drawings (both are exactly what they sound like).  Combined with the nail sculptures, they reflect a distinct feminist perspective.  Goodman says, “Women are often asked to make media-influenced choices about our bodies...fake nails and false eyelashes, though, go against that. You’re able to become expressive, to become someone else. You don’t become the idea of who a woman should be. You become the antithesis.”  Working with these materials to create some rather grotesque-looking pieces, Goodman turns the traditional idea of using beauty paraphernalia to look pretty completely upside down, especially in the case of the Medusa - a mythical creature so hideous she turned people to stone with one look.  And in the case of her gigantic, talon-like sculptures of single nails, they become downright menacing.  Naturally I'm drawn to these, as I love any beauty/fashion items that double as weapons. ;)

Next up, we have an update from Lithuanian artist Agne Kisonaite.  You might remember her Giant Lipstick sculpture from 2013, which, while I liked the general idea behind it, I disagreed with her notion that consumers bear most of the responsibility for making "green" beauty purchases.  In any case, Kisonaite is back with another beauty-related piece entitled Glass Blowing, this time using old nail polish bottles. 

Agne Kisonaite, Glass Blowing, 2016

The artist gathered over 5,000 (!) used bottles of nail polish and divided them into 21 color categories.  The finished piece was whittled down to a mere 1,969 bottles.

Agne Kisonaite, Glass Blowing, 2016

Kisonaite doesn't say where she got the old bottles, but I'm wondering if Avon was behind gathering them the way they were with Giant Lipstick.  Judging from the boxes in the photo below, it's very likely.  I also wonder what she did with the roughly 3,000 bottles that didn't make the cut.

Agne Kisonaite, Glass Blowing, 2016

Agne Kisonaite, Glass Blowing, 2016(images from agneart.com)

Once again, the goal was to bring attention to the problematic lack of recycling in the beauty world.  Kisonaite says,  "[M]akeup goods are often non-recyclable. This is why 'Glass Blowing' project seemed meaningful to me – these 1969 nail polish bottles didn’t end up as a waste: now they grace our home with their lively presence."  I was heartened to see that she wasn't preachy about it this time and putting the burden of recycling squarely on consumers.  I absolutely agree that the industry really needs to overhaul its packaging to make recycling more feasible, especially nail polish - with the exception of Zoya, most companies do not make it easy.  And given that nail polish is considered hazardous waste, it has to go to a dedicated facility.  So, overall I must conclude that it's good an artist is calling attention to the issue.

What do you think of both these artists?  As with nearly all Makeup as Muse artists, I would commission them in a heartbeat to create unique pieces for the Makeup Museum if it occupied a real space.  :)

 


Makeup as Muse: Jason Mecier's makeup portraits

These aren't exactly new, but they are way too cool not to share.  San Francisco-based, self-taught artist Jason Mecier creates celebrity portraits out of unconventional materials.  From Jerry Seinfeld rendered in cereal to Hugh Hefner made out of old Playboy magazines, Mecier seems to have something for everyone. Each portrait takes at least 50 hours, and much longer for larger, more detailed images. Mecier gathers materials from thrift stores and sometimes even from the celebrities themselves.  As for his background and using celebrities as his primary subject matter, Mecier explains, "Though I have no formal art training, I did have an excellent mentor in my grandmother, Anita Tollefson. When I was young, I remember being mesmerized by her paintings, weavings, mosaics, sculptures, collages, and stained glass work that filled my grandparents' house and yard. If Anita was working on an art project, she would set me up at a nearby table with a project of my own to work on. One of my earliest pieces, is a mosaic made from beans, noodles, rocks, and cut bamboo sticks glued on a piece of wood. My grandmother encouraged me to create masterpieces using materials readily available to me. She would rather paint on the back of her cigarette cartons than buy a canvas. I learned from her that I can make art out of anything I want to, and that there are no rules...As a kid I remember obsessively clipping and scrap-booking pictures from the TV Guide of my favorite shows. In high school I did pencil drawings of my favorite record covers like The Rolling Stones, Olivia Newton-John and Pat Benatar. Later I did a series of psychedelic collages using Charlie's Angels trading cards and picture of Florence Henderson from the Wesson Oil coupons and ads. Soon I was arranging beans and noodles into larger portraits of these icons. It just exploded from there!"

Don't worry about Mecier's food-based portraits getting bug infestations or mold - he uses an acrylic sealant for edible materials.

Jason Mecier, Jerry Seinfeld

There was actually a short documentary on the construction of this portrait of Amy Sedaris.

Jason Mecier, Amy Sedaris, 2011

Jason Mecier, Hugh Hefner

Apparently there was $1500 worth of weed on the canvas for Snoop Dogg's portrait.

Jason Mecier, Snoop Dogg, 2011

Jason Mecier, Lady Gaga, 2010

All of these are awesome, but obviously my favorites are the portraits from his makeup series. It's one thing to create a portrait out of makeup products, but it's quite another to form a mosaic by incorporating the outer packaging in addition to the makeup itself.

Jason Mecier, Missy Elliott, 2011

Jason Mecier, Mariah Carey, 2011

Jason Mecier, Rosario Dawson, 2011

Jason Mecier, Ashanti, 2011
(images from jasonmecier.com)

Mecier says that he "enjoy[s] trying to match the perfect items, colors, and themes with the essence of each unique subject."  To that end, might I suggest that he continue this series with some other modern iconic beauty looks?  I'd love to see Rihanna with her blue lipstick or Joan Smalls with violet lips.  He also takes commissions, so I'm seriously considering asking him to make me a portrait of Babo using various cookies.  ;)

What do you think of these?  And who would you like to see in makeup or other materials?


Makeup as Muse: Cosmetic "ink blot" tests

Be still my ink blot- and makeup-loving heart!  I came across these images at AnOther Magazine earlier this week and had to share.  I've always been fascinated by Rorschach tests and what people see in them, despite their serving no real scientific or diagnostic purpose.  As their value in terms of psychological evaluation has long been debunked since the height of their use in the 1960s, Rorschach-inspired prints are now mostly relegated to art and decor.  And I couldn't be happier about that - as of late I've been admiring everything ink blot, from rugs to tiles, plates and pillows.  So when AnOther married my love of ink blots and makeup for the magazine's dedicated beauty week I just about died.  The brains behind these wonderful creations are fashion photographer Agnes Lloyd-Pratt and set designer Victoria Spicer, who were partially inspired by Lloyd-Pratt's childhood experimentation with the process to make masks.

I think what I was most blown away by was the fact that they kindly included the exact products used to create the pictures, so beauty junkies may have fun seeing some of their favorite products in a totally new context.  Here we go!

NARS Nail Polish in Night Owl and MAC Nail Polish in Rain of Flowers:

AnOther Magazine - Rorschach tests made with makeup

Instant Glow Bronzing Rocks in Pink Bronze by Seventeen, MAC Nail Varnish in Mean and Green, Stay Pout Lip Colour in Infrared by Seventeen:

AnOther Magazine - Rorschach tests made with makeup

Maybelline Super Stay Gel Nail Color in Crystal Clear, Sleek Candy Tint Balm in Sherbet, Instant Glow Bronzing Rocks in Pink Bronze by Seventeen, Sleek Blush in Pink Lemonade

AnOther Magazine - Rorschach tests made with makeup

YSL Nail Polish in Jaune Babouche, NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturiser in Seychelles:

AnOther Magazine - Rorschach tests made with makeup

MAC Nail Polish in Mean and Green, Clinique Superbalm Moisturizing Gloss in Rootbeer, Josie Maran Lip and Cheek Creamy Oil in Everlasting Honey, Fresh Gloss Lip Balm in Coral Glow Number 2 by Burberry:

AnOther Magazine - Rorschach tests made with makeup

Super Lash Mascara in Brown/Black by Seventeen, Sleek i-Lust Eyeshadow in The Gold Standard, Maybelline Super Stay Gel Nail Color in Crystal Clear:

AnOther Magazine - Rorschach tests made with makeup

MAC Lipmix in Cyan, Barry M Flawless Matte Finish Oil Free Foundation in Beige 532:

AnOther Magazine - Rorschach tests made with makeup

I'm seeing Hungry Hungry Hippos in this one, ha!  Butter London Nail Polishes in Tramp Stamp and Brown Sugar, Maybelline Dream Touch Blush in Berry, OCC Lip Tar in NSFW:

AnOther Magazine - Rorschach tests made with makeup

Same products as the one above:

AnOther Magazine - Rorschach tests made with makeup

Super Lash Mascara in Brown/Black by Seventeen, Sleek i-Lust Eyeshadow in The Gold Standard, Maybelline Super Stay Gel Nail Color in Crystal Clear:

AnOther Magazine - Rorschach tests made with makeup

These are wings, yes?  Instant Glow Bronzing Rocks in Pink Bronze by Seventeen, MAC Nail Varnish in Mean and Green, Stay Pout Lip Colour in Infrared by Seventeen:

AnOther Magazine - Rorschach tests made with makeup

 Same products as the one above:

AnOther Magazine - Rorschach tests made with makeup

NARS Nail Polish in Purple Rain, OCC Lip Tar in Digitalis, Lip Couture Liquid Lipstick in Lollipop, Stay Pout Lip Colour in Infrared by Seventeen:

AnOther Magazine - Rorschach tests made with makeup
(images from anothermag.com)

Are any jumping out at you?  What do you see?

 

 

 


Makeup as Muse: Donna Huanca's Cosmetic Paintings

Artforum recently featured a joint exhibition of Bolivian-American artist Donna Huanca and Polish artist Przemek Pyszczek.  While the latter's work is interesting, it's definitely Huanca's "cosmetic paintings" I want to focus on.  I'll be honest, I'm pretty brain-dead from work already this week so I'm going to take the easy way out and let a real art critic discuss the meaning of her work.

Huanca used Chanel eye shadow, liner and mascara onto stretched wool suits.  Combining the themes of male/female identity, socioeconomic power and body politics, the Cosmetic Paintings show an innovative take on using makeup as paint.  Art Viewer has an excellent description:  "Since the 1980s, the power suit and bold use of brand-name cosmetics have armored the female executive on the male-dominated battlefield of corporate life. On the one hand, these outward facing garments and war paint empower; on the other hand they represent a male ideal of the female form. In Donna Huanca’s Cosmetic Paintings, the routine female practice of applying makeup and dressing for success is transformed into a powerful, primal action, employing these loaded, normative symbols of feminine power by applying Chanel makeup onto woolen suit material. In the context of an exhibition, Huanca’s flat works act as backdrops to be experienced in conversation with the body. They are activated through a performance of painted female bodies glacially engaging with the works and space. The juxtaposition of the almost static live performance versus the remnants of intense action on canvas challenges the viewer to ask where social power is stored: is it in the body or in the garments that conceal it?" 

That last question is an interesting one, as it seems Huanca views physical bodies and clothing to be interchangeable in her art.  "Garments evoke bodies and carry their form and spirit,” she says.

Donna Huanca, Cosmetic Painting #6, 2015

Donna Huanca, Cosmetic Painting #8

Donna Huanca, Cosmetic Painting #10, 2015

Donna Huanca, Ego Medium, 2015

Donna Huanca, MiuMiu Coral, 2015

Donna Huanca, Scarring/Branding, 2015
(images from artsy.net)

Donna Huanca - performance for Muscle Memory show

Donna Huanca - performance for Muscle Memory show
(images from ruaminx.com)

I'm intrigued.  Creating abstract paintings with makeup isn't all that groundbreaking on its own.  But the use of a power suit as a canvas and the addition of painted live models takes a simple idea (using makeup as a medium) and transforms it into something more complex, illustrating the struggle to navigate a man's world without completely abandoning traditional markers of femininity, like cosmetics.  Rather, the raw, thick dabs of shadow and mascara on a wool suit canvas coupled with models wearing only paint as clothing demonstrate that cosmetics can be symbols of power rather than mere prettiness.  I would also argue there's a class/status angle here too, although I'm too out of it to properly articulate what that is.  I just think it's notable that Huanca opted to break out the Chanel rather than smearing on a less expensive makeup brand.  It could be yet another display of power - economic in this case - with the implication being that women high up on the corporate ladder (i.e., who wear suits regularly) can easily afford designer makeup.  Or perhaps it's an exaggeration of the idea of the makeup tax:  not only do women have to wear makeup to look presentable in professional situations, they require pricier cosmetics in sleek, fancy packaging to truly feel confident. And there might even be an unspoken expectation that they should spring for the "good" stuff in order to fully look the part of a high-powered executive.  

What do you think of these paintings?   


Makeup as Muse: a cycle of destruction, but also rebirth?

I have a simultaneously inspiring and saddening Makeup as Muse to share with you today. First, I'll focus on the artwork itself.  The city of Donetsk in Ukraine was almost completely destroyed by the German invasion during World War II.  But after the war, the city underwent a great renaissance thanks in large part to the women who went to work in Donetsk's newly created factories.  In 2012, nonprofit arts group Izolyatsia commissioned a public artwork to honor these women and chose Cameroonian artist Pascale Marthine Tayou to create the piece.  Inspired by Claes Oldenburg's giant lipstick sculpture, Tayou produced an oversized lipstick tube, appropriately titled Make Up! to crown one of the city's industrial smokestacks and pay homage to the women who helped rebuild the city after the war.  She explains, "I noticed that, thanks to the courage of the Ukrainian women, Donetsk rose from the ashes after the war and wanted to make some of their own symbols of love and hope, because, from my personal point of view, Donetsk - is not only a city of mines and metal. It is also an island of dreams, ready to share its hidden treasures." What better way to express this sentiment than lipstick?

Makeup sculpture by Pascale Marthine Tayou
(image from news.artnet.com)

Makeup sculpture by Pascale Marthine Tayou
(image from next.liberation.fr)

Makeup sculpture by Pascale Marthine Tayou
(image from espoarte.net)

Makeup sculpture by Pascale Marthine Tayou - construction
(image from news.artnet.com)

Now here's the sad part.  In early June, Russian separatists from the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) blew up the sculpture, as shown in a video that surfaced on June 24.

Makeup sculpture by Pascale Marthine Tayou - destruction
(image from news.artnet.com)

This was not a random attack.  Roughly a year prior to the destruction of Make Up!, DPR took over Izolyatsia's exhibition space and foundation.  A DPR leader stated, "We had no choice but to occupy it, because the art, which they spread, was not an art at all. On the territory of Donetsk Republic this kind of art will be punished." Another official noted in an interview, "Considering what kind of art they have shown here, this center had to be seized...this is not art and it cannot be art. These people are sick, and they have demonstrated this art to other sick people...this has nothing to do with anything lofty or sublime, with anything Slavic. These people hate everything Slavic, everything Russian...they’ve brainwashed our youth with this pornography. Our youth, instead of growing, marrying, getting children and getting jobs, they degrade...here our population here hasn’t grown, but started dying out.”  The "pornography" that the official was referring to was a book of photographs that contained nude portraits.  Additionally, according to Hyperallergic, Izolyatsia also "earned the group’s ire by resisting the xenophobic nationalism that increased in Donetsk after the fall of the Soviet Union and promoting provocative international art — being an 'agent for change,' as Izolyatsia founder Luba Michailova told Hyperallergic last year."

Izolyatsia's entire space - offices, galleries, bookstore, library - was looted and is currently used as, among other things, a prison, training ground for militants, and *shudder* a place for executions.  Izolyatsia was forced to leave behind much of the art.  Most of what remained has been destroyed, in some cases used for target practice or sold for scrap metal. 

I'm still holding out for a happy ending to this.  The city was nearly obliterated during World War II but was later revitalized.  Maybe a similar renewal can happen after this latest attack.  The cycle has been destroy, rebuild, destroy...so the natural next step is to rebuild again, right?  It's just wishful thinking on my part, I suppose, but I have hope that Donetsk will reclaim its art someday.


Makeup as Muse: Hasan Kale

Via Design Crush I found these absolutely amazing teeny tiny paintings on just about any object you can think of, including, yes, makeup.  The Curator loves anything miniature so naturally I was quite smitten.  Actually, forget miniature - these are micro!  

For over 30 years, Turkish artist Hasan Kale has been creating "micro art" on a dizzying range of small objects.  His favorite subject is his native Istanbul, but occasionally he branches out with other motifs.  While I'm impressed with all of the things he perceives to be his canvas, I was especially interested in his venture into makeup and beauty.  Take a gander at this very intricate painting at the tip of a lipstick bullet.  I'm dying to know how he did this without nicking the lipstick and having the color mix in with the painting. 

Micro art by Hasan Kale

Micro art by Hasan Kale

I think I want to hire him to do my next manicure...

Micro art by Hasan Kale

Hard to tell for sure, but this look like a cotton swab.  Again, I have no idea how he got such a precise, detailed scene onto this - I would think  the fibers would absorb the paint that's applied. 

Micro art by Hasan Kale

Here are some non-beauty-related but equally awesome pieces.  While these tiny paintings can seem like a novelty, there is serious effort involved.  Due to the miniscule size of the canvas, one wrong brushstroke can ruin the entire thing - Kale sometimes holds his breath to keep his hand steady.  And it can take up to three days to finish one of these micro paintings.  Three days doesn't seem like much, but it's actually a very long time when you consider that his canvases are only about half an inch wide.  Talk about patience!

Micro art by Hasan Kale

Micro art by Hasan Kale

Micro art by Hasan Kale

Micro art by Hasan Kale

Micro art by Hasan Kale

Micro art by Hasan Kale
(images from instagram.com)

In this interview, Kale states the following about his work:  "These are objects from daily life that people hardly ever think about.  We don't pay much attention to them.  Through my art I want to stress how nice these things can be.  I deliberately choose difficult objects, though how small they are or how well they absorb paint is not so important.  What is important is that they come to life and bring joy to people."  That made me smile.  Also, based on his comment about absorbing paint, I'm guessing he doesn't prime trickier surfaces like lipstick or cotton swabs, making the level of detail all the more miraculous.  It seems unbelievable, so much so that the artist recorded several videos of himself at work to prove it's all done by hand.

What do you think?