The Love Object – Artist Statement

The Love Object is a series of paintings that combine imagery from fashion advertising with disruptive elements in order to address ideas of femininity and female power. I’m interested in fashion, and particularly the fashion advertising that appears in women’s magazines, as a place of fantasy that both proposes and prescribes ideas of female power. By combining imagery lifted from these magazine pages with disruptive elements, I seek to explore my own desire to both inhabit and critique the standards they create.

The paintings in art history assume the gaze and desire of a male viewer, while contemporary fashion images invite their female viewer to imagine a metamorphosis wherein her own body might inspire adoration. With this in mind, I select fashion images that propose the possibility of transformation: gold charms for decadence, ribbons for decoration, a bottle of sweet perfume that might attract a lover. I see in painting an element of the vampiric, wherein I the painter take ownership of—and in a way become—that which I paint. In a way, these paintings become self-portraits of my own acquisition of new bodies and new-found adoration. They confirm my complicity with the proffered transaction, allowing me the identity of both viewer and viewed.

I’m interested in women’s magazines and the images therein because they serve as one of the only resources for women to learn what female power looks like, and yet so often this power is coupled with disempowerment. The strong woman appears off balance; the sensuously parted lips share a face with fearful eyes; the romantic kiss contains a hint of sadness. These images teach a careful game of control and moderation.

Parallel to my search for fashion imagery, I seek images from art history that present a feeling of femininity. In particular, I’m drawn to the paintings of nineteenth century painter Henri Fantin Latour, who received notoriety for his beautiful paintings of floral still lifes. With their softness and frontal presentation, these still lifes remind me of odalisques in that they invite consumption. I borrow elements from these still lifes—a vase, a flower, or a full composition—and incorporate them into my fashion paintings in order to create disruption within the composition. These historical references—as well as more formal disruptions such are blurring, drips, and occasional impasto—serve to express my trepidation with the fashion images I use.

‘Objectification’ is a word often used to describe the process of transforming a body into a something that can be owned. By incorporating the genre of still life—which focuses on the presentation of objects—I seek to obviate the consumability of the images I reference while resituating them in a space of new potential power.