When I was in Chicago last month, I was looking at Grant Wood's American Gothic and I realized (as I often do, standing before iconic paintings) that what we think we know about a painting isn't really true. In this instance, what I "think" is of a painting with two very dour old people, when in fact, what I was looking at was kind of a frank and very contemporary assessment of what today could almost be a hipster couple. "If she'd open her mouth and speak," I thought, "if she came to life, she'd be really very pretty, even today." If she'd let her hair down a little.

Which reminded me of what I've long thought about the Mona Lisa: that if the woman who sat for the portrait walked in to the room today, dressed in contemporary styles, we wouldn't even recognize her. "Of course I have eyebrows, that's the major thing," she'd say.

So I had to try it, and see for myself. I'm mostly amazed by how Lisa looked suddenly twenty years younger as soon as the eyebrows went on. She reminds me a little of Anne Frank. Ms. Gothic, above, is perhaps related to Jenna Elfman?
The Uniform Project, where that artist Sheena Matheiken (http://theuniformproject.com/) wears the same little black dress every day for a year, is winding down to the end of its year.

And now, near the end, she does a fashion homage to Magritte:

How much do I love this?
The main reason I was laughing at those plastic Venus statues way back when (rather than being truly horrified, as many readers were) was that I have a different contextual reference for this kind of fine-art-inspired schlock. Simply put, I see it all the time.

Today, I found another particularly horrifying batch of products I would like to share with you. They're Christmas ornaments. I want you to have a look. I want to show you that sometimes, an ugly art reproduction is simply that: an ugly art reproduction.

Yes, it's more appalling when among their many other faults, the repros uniformly thin out the women represented, but it's not deliberate, and the cries of conspiracy are still wasted, misplaced, and overblown.

Have a look at some other cultural "conspiracies":

First we start with a rather pretty "Starry Night" ornament. Starry Night is good, you can put that on practically anything, and people will buy it.

From there, however, things get a little more shifty. Here's a take on the old "Venus", coming up again. No cultural outrage to be found here, this Venus isn't skinny, she's just plain ugly, both her and the shell she rode in on.

And what have they done to poor Vincent Van Gogh? What sorts of political and cultural outrage does this ornament inspire? Or shall we just snicker and groan with horror, and move on?

If Vincent didn't make you laugh...there's always this one, titled "Sean C." You tell me, but I think they're trying to do Bond, James Bond.

So, no grand conclusions to be drawn. Just that ugly stuff abounds, and the range of crap that people will pay money for is really astounding, and I think some of it really deserves a proper mocking.
daphnep: (ART)
( Jan. 31st, 2009 07:49 pm)
To balance the equation, I'd like to show you this, which [livejournal.com profile] feanna linked in a comment to that other post.

title or description

I really love, love fine art spoofs and imitations. (See? I even have "art spoofs" on my lj "interests" list.) A really well-done spoof pays close attention to the original, and anyone who has tried to copier apres les maitres has learned that you can't copy a master without noticing boatloads of details you've never seen before, and acquiring boatloads of respect for the original piece. For a while, I was doing Andy Warhol-style pet portraits for money (made a fair chunk o' change off of those, for a time) and I honestly will never look at a Warhol silkscreen the same way after. Good imitations are hard to find, it's a lot harder to do (at least to do well) than one might think, going in. Anybody doing it right is going to be spending a lot of time trying to get inside and understand the original, and what could possibly be better than that?

The original is behind the cut. )
Okay, after a fair amount of interest in my "Improving Aphrodite" post from the other day, I made it public, and I'm happy to see so many people as piqued by the injustice to art and anatomy as I was.

If you're here linked from another site, welcome, and come right in.

I feel I need to say one more word, though, in defense of the company (and the individuals) making the models and reproductions. This is my industry, it's my profession, and I'd like to tell you a little bit about how it works, and in the process, what YOU can do to stop it when you see something like this that enrages you.

Basically, there is no conspiracy. These are NOT a deliberate and wanton desecration of the original artworks; the sculptors and model-makers are "innocent victims" of the system and not deliberately trying to persecute women or harm anyone's body-image. In reproducing art, we often have to alter it a bit to fit the medium, heightening and brightening a painting's colors to make it look better (and more salable) on a poster, for example. What happened here wasn't someone saying "let's make Venus stick-thin and bobble-headed, anorectic and childlike, and carve away the flesh of her tummy and the bones of her hips", they just made a little sculpture and thought, looking at it, that it didn't look "right". So they adjusted a bit. They adjusted using their best eye and their best judgment, in a world where their own eyes and judgment have been formed by a million other images that came before this one. For every Aphrodite this model-maker has seen, he/she has also seen a million Photoshopped movie posters, advertisements, and magazine covers. His/her kids probably play with "Bratz" and "Barbie" dolls. He/she probably has body issues of his/her own, as most people do in our culture today.

And when that individual went to produce a model, they didn't see that it was inaccurate and grotesque, they thought it looked like something their customers (potentially YOU) would want to buy in a store or catalogue. And this is retail, and as I always say, "retail is the purest form of democracy", and it's a democracy that works really well: we can't keep producing anything that you, the consumers, won't buy. Keep in mind that I took those photos from a wholesale, to-the-trade publication. I didn't order those items to put on the shelf for MY customers. You probably haven't seen those on the shelves where you shop. The democracy is working. If no-one orders it, if I and all the other buyers think the pieces are hideous, the model-makers are going to come up with something else to sell. That's how the system works.

So you can write letters to companies if you want to, and explain why you won't buy their products, but it's the "buying the product or not" that the company cares about most--the system has been shaped by consumer sales: Oprah on a magazine cover, thin, sells more issues than Oprah on a magazine cover, curvy. Movie posters that show a disproportionally stretched actress sell more tickets than movie posters that show the actress as she is. "Bratz" dolls sell better than "Happy to be me" dolls, no matter what lip-service is paid to body-love and self acceptance.

So I want you to see these images, so that you can become a more savvy consumer of images, and so that you can recognize the distortions when you see them on retail shelves and advertising yourself. But I'd also like to implore you, before you dash off an angry letter to a wholesale art reproduction company (especially if it's a business you have not previously supported with your dollars) to think about the businesses you do support and the ways that you can positively encourage them to change and improve their habits, and watch out for times you find yourself "voting" for unrealistically deformed bodies, yourself, by responding to advertising that builds on all the same values and misconceptions that formed the terrible shapes of the plastic goddesses, below.

That's all. Thank you, again, for reading.
daphnep: (big butt)
( Jan. 23rd, 2009 09:38 am)
At work, I was flipping through catalogs of fine-art reproductions, admiring the good ones, and groaning over the poor ones, when I noticed a trend that stopped me and sent me furiously turning pages back, saying "oh my god! Look what they're doing!"

Here, let me show you.

This is a resin model one can buy of the "Venus with Apple" in the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen:

title or description

Look familiar? Not quite?

Here's another, from Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" (one of my personal pet peeves is when companies take paintings--2 dimensional art--and turn them into models, 3D, as if the painter really was trying to express themselves in sculpture, he just didn't have the right materials, or something....but I'll try to put that aside for the moment.)

title or description

Okay, these are hideous reproductions any way you look at it, I admit. But WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO VENUS, the !@#$&! Goddess of BEAUTY, for crying out loud?

Here, have a look at the originals. )


daphnep: (Default)


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