MM ideas for 2023 and beyond
January 21, 2023
2022 was the year I realized that I shouldn't try to stick to any kind of schedule in terms of blogging or even exhibition openings. I need to assign target dates, but also try not to beat myself up too much when inevitably they are not met. No progress was made on many of the blog topics, exhibition ideas, and bigger initiatives from last year - for example, as predicted, the website is exactly the same. Nevertheless I want to keep soldiering forward.
In an effort to have slightly more realistic expectations and stay focused, this year I've made three categories of exhibition topics. The first group is the Museum's shortlist, topics that I think and that might be doable by myself. The second group consists of exhibitions that I think would have wide appeal but require co-curation, which, again, will be difficult as no payment can be offered at this time. The last category highlights the non-priority topics, i.e. ones that are good but not quite as immediate as the first group. If the title has no notes next to it, that means the description hasn't changed since last year.
- "Indies and Influencers: The Changing Makeup Landscape"
- "Age Before Beauty: Teens and Makeup"
- "Vanity Projects: Celebrity Makeup Brands"
- "Color History Through Cosmetics: Blue"
- "The Medium is the Message: Makeup as Art"- same themes as described in 2022, but I'd love to add a smaller gallery just for Makeup as Muse artists.
- "Ancient Allure: Egyptomania in Makeup" - Tweaked the title from last year, and since I delivered a paper on this subject in October 2022, it might not take quite as much time to pull together an exhibition. Plus, I just discovered the Cleveland Museum of Art is opening an Egyptomania in fashion exhibition in the spring, so there's definitely interest.
- "Just Desserts: Sweet Tooth Revisited" - I'd love for Sweet Tooth to return on its 10-year anniversary. A section on savory food would have to be added since bizarre food collabs reached a new level in 2022.
- "Beauty Marked in Your Eyes: A History of '90s Makeup" - Nearly 10 years and still not much progress since I first got the idea in 2014, but I'm not giving up yet. I was thinking it might be better to try to work on individual segments than the entire history. So far, chapters include: the rise of makeup artist brands, the impact of the internet on cosmetics, the battle for the "multicultural" market of the early '90s, makeup in various subcultures/genres (grrrls, grunge, goth, hip-hop) and how these styles got co-opted by the mainstream beauty industry. The epilogue would be the transition to Y2k makeup and the impact of '9os makeup on today's makeup, including various comebacks.
- "Design is a Good Idea: Innovations in Cosmetics Design and Packaging"
- "Nothing to Hide: Makeup as Mask"
Here are the ones the Museum will need much help with. Who wants to be a volunteer curator?
- "From Male Polish to Guyliner: A History of Men's Makeup"
- "Queens: A History of Drag Makeup"
- "Aliengelic: A Pat McGrath Retrospective"
- "Ugly Makeup: A Revolution in Aesthetics"
- Fashion x Makeup (still haven't thought of a decent title!)
- "Working Beauty: Makeup Artistry as Profession" - I found myself pondering who the first makeup artist was (and I love the hilarious Makeup Artist Memes Instagram account), so perhaps a history of how the career of makeup artist came to fruition would be interesting.
- "Mineral, Animal, Vegetable: 5,000 Years of Cosmetic Ingredients" - We really do put a lot of weird stuff on our faces in the name of beauty. This exhibition would explore the main ingredients used in makeup, along with the more questionable and downright dangerous ones from history.
And the last set, which are things I'm still debating or that need to wait a bit.
- "From Mods and Hippies to Supervixens and Grrrls: '60s and '90s Makeup in Dialogue"
- "Gilded Splendor: A History of Gold Makeup"
- "Black and Blue: Punk Makeup, 1975-2000"
- "Pandemic: Makeup in the Age of COVID-19" - As COVID case numbers remain high, this is getting tabled until it might actually be reasonably safe to go outside without a mask.
- "Catch the Light: Glitter in Cosmetics from Ancient Times Through Today"
"Wanderlust: Travel-Inspired Beauty"
- "By Any Other Name: The Rose in Makeup"
- "Lash Out! A History of Eyelash Beauty" - This one is new and while it might be boring, I am honestly sick of lipstick getting all the attention. There are so many books on it, why not have an extensive look at another makeup category? Thinking eyeliner, blush, highlighter and face powder might all be great options too.
Now for the blog posts. It's too much, but my brain is so eager to research and write!
MM Musings (1-2): In addition to museums as activists/agents of social change (which is coming soon!), I want to write about museum accessibility and revisit building a permanent collection and the issue of ethics in collecting. As the Museum evolved over the years to discuss makeup prior to 1900 and the cosmetic practices of Indigenous peoples, related objects have been on my collecting radar. But none of them have been purchased because their provenance remains questionable. This could also tie into the idea of using replicas of ancient artifacts as a more ethical way of displaying them. Oh, and I've been very inspired by the DMDA - a post exploring in-person events and activities would be really fun.
Makeup as Muse (1): Finally got around to Sylvie Fleury in 2022, so hopefully will be covering Janine Antoni, Rachel Lachowitz, Asa Jungnelius or Tomomi Nishizawa. But there were a couple of others I discovered in the past year, so those are possibilities too.
MM Mailbag (2): I only got one MM Mailbag post up in 2022. Two posts in 2023 would be ambitious, but I'd like to get them up as I think people searching for information find them helpful.
Vintage/brief histories (4-5): Mostly the same as last year, but I am sidetracked by newer ideas I had later in 2022, which are: ear makeup (the knee makeup article yielded a decent amount of website traffic), mouches and skin tone, true crime and makeup, a history of face gems, bindis (got a little obsessed with kumkum and bindi boxes), matching portraits on vintage compacts, the art of shibayama inlay, makeup for glasses wearers, spray (airbrush) makeup, Russian cosmetics during the communist era, guns and makeup, and Riot Grrrl makeup. Local (Baltimore/Maryland) beauty history might be interesting too. I also like the idea of an article on vices in makeup divided into 4 subjects: gambling/casinos, smoking/cigarettes, junk food and alcohol. Previous ideas included dolls and makeup, histories of early modern powder applicators, setting sprays and color-changing cosmetics, copycats, profiles of some more obscure makeup artists from the '60s through the '90s, and histories of defunct brands (a slew of celebrity lines, Diane von Furstenberg, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Inoui ID, and revisit Stephane Marais), especially Black-owned brands like Marva Louis and Rose Morgan.
Trends (1): Licensing deals are at the forefront.
Continuations: Still need to finish up posts on Dorothy Gray's portrait series, Chinese makeup brands, and clothing and color coordination.
Topics to revisit (1-2): Mostly the same as last year, sadly, since I still did not tackle them: faux freckles, non-traditional lipstick shades, and a deeper dive into surrealism and makeup. I'd expand to Dada so I can include Rrose Sélavy, this very intriguing woman, and possibly incorporate the MSCHF x Fenty collaboration, since it read very Dada to me.
Artist collabs (5): The list is absolutely staggering. In 2022 alone there were the following collabs: Marleigh Culver for Laura Mercier, Steffi Lynn for Ulta, Robin Eisenberg for Urban Decay, Obi for Fenty, Katie Scott for Hourglass, Elie Top for Clé de Peau, Cho Gi Seok for RMK, Kazuki Hioki for Osaji, Caho for Blendberry, and Andy Paiko for Kanebo. There are tons of other collabs from previous years too, including Kelly Beeman for Laura Mercier, Charlotte Gestaut for Clé de Peau, Cecilia Carlstedt and Ethar Balkhair for Bobbi Brown, Masumi Ishida for Osaji, Åsa Ekström for Estée Lauder, El Seed for MAC, Connor Tingley for NARS, and the Shiseido Gallery compacts and lip balms. Not to mention I found a couple of Native American artists who made some beautiful pieces, and some other artists whose work appeared on vintage compacts (Raymond Peynet and Jean Cocteau, for starters.) The series on the artists whose work appears on Pat McGrath's packaging is better suited to the Aliengelic exhibition so that might be at the end of the queue for now.
Book reviews (2-5): The list is seriously out of control. Two more beauty books are coming out soon, plus I came across a couple I didn't know about previously.
Fashion: The collections of Dries van Noten, Off-White, and Marco Ribeiro for Pleasing are at the top of the list, along with a couple of vintage brands.
Color Connections (1-2): Slowed down a bit from the beginning of 2022, but still keeping up with them!
Miscellaneous: Kawaii collections like Kakao Friends, BTS, Sticky Monster Lab and others, along with newcomer Isamaya Beauty, a line by makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench. And I want to keep plugging away on Indigenous peoples' makeup and lesser-known LGTBQ+ histories. I'm finding the latter difficult to locate - the same figures and stories keep popping up, and I want to find others that haven't been shared much before. Finally, it's not even a fully formed idea, but I'm giving myself a crash course in material culture, so I'd like to write something about how that relates to makeup objects. Oh, and some reflections on the Makeup Museum in honor of its 15 year anniversary, which is coming up in August.
Tabled for now: history of colored mascara, how makeup language has evolved (for example, why we typically say "blush" now instead of "rouge" for cheek color, the idea of makeup as jewelry, day and night makeup, wear-to-work makeup from the 1970s-90s, profiles of Halston, Calvin Klein and Nina Ricci brands, BIPOC salespeople and customers in MLM companies, and makeup ad illustrators.
And finally, the books I can't seem to even start. Meh. New idea for this year is an edited volume of alternative makeup histories. I've seen many examples of "beyond the canon" in other fields and think a book like this is needed for makeup, and I think the Makeup Museum would be perfect to put out such a publication since it has always tried to tell the story of makeup in a different way and uncover hidden histories. Still need a title.
So, tell me: which of the topics from the first exhibition category and which blog posts do you want to see the most? And do you want to see exhibitions and blog posts or would you rather see a book finally get published and the website redone? It's a constant battle between regularly putting out content and devoting time to larger projects.