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Campaign

2011
Catalogue for C24 Gallery
514 West 24th St. New York, NY

Text— Amy Smith-Stewart
ISBN— 978-0-615-55369-6


40 pages
7 x 9 inches
Edition of 500

Offset
Saddle-stitch binding
Hand-stenciled cover


Printed in Canada by Prolific Group
Typefaces— Graphik, Minion, Lydian

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FACELIFT

We are a culture obsessed with image making − a society fixated on surface perception. The rapidly growing and absolutely powerful mass media increasingly emphasize the act of becoming, rather than being. This is due in large part to the recent rise of new media, i.e., social networking and reality television, which embrace the celebrity lifestyle of "making it." Who we are and what we are become reflections of popular thinking. Since the invention of photography, women's bodies have been used to hustle products from perfume to dish soap. Today digital enhancing and airbrushing transform female images into unattainable avatars. It is this very unattainability that pushes women to purchase deceptive and even toxic beauty products − our modern-day snake oils − produced by an industry that exploits poor women who toil in far-off factories. Indeed we consume with the hope of becoming what these brands promise.

This exhibition, Campaign, is my attempt to navigate this world of interchangeable, digitally manipulated homogeneous girls with flawless bodies as a way of understanding how the female has become not only a powerful mainstay, but a repository for all of our mixed-up and misplaced notions of status, power, dominance and beauty. What perpetuates this hegemonic depiction of women? How do we turn it around and reveal what's really underneath these super-perfect veneers?

 

The artists in this exhibition show us how women's bodies have been gift-wrapped and marketed; they offer us alternatives to the popular pictorial standardization of the female gender. Whether appropriating imagery from fashion, advertising, entertainment or tabloid culture and repurposing their fashionable tropes, the artists create alternative meanings to reveal hidden messages latent beneath these digitally altered beings. In doing so, they seek to implode prevailing stereotypes and socially conditioned norms of femininity to uncover how we've been programmed to look at ourselves. Some of the artists assume these female types, inventing new identities or birthing multiple identities to explore the very malleability of sexual identification. Others show us how these cultural signifiers are informed by the media, the gender barometer of our postmillennial times. Most employ humor to expose the inherent perversity and absurdity lurking within our prevailing depictions of women.

The technological advances that have brought us digital imaging manipulation have fueled our fixation with makeovers, compounding the contradictory messages we already had and further promoting confused ideas about who we are; as a result, we want to be everything but ourselves. Maybe, if a post-gender generation ever emerges, we will embrace our flaws, imperfections and aging bodies as visual markers of where we've been and where we are going, and all those hyper-stylized shells will be consigned to the dusty shelves of publishing history.

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