The Jewish Museum has always interested me because of the way it interprets art as belonging to its central theme. Sometimes this means Jewish artists, and other times it refers to the art itself. The permanent collection offers a view of Jewish history and the objects that reflect it, while the contemporary wings present a variety of artwork. A few days ago I went in and saw not one, not two, but three incredible exhibits. Today I want to highlight Laurie Simmons’ exhibit, How We See.
Here are several of the works from this show:
Does something seem a little off? That’s because their eyes are all closed. The eyes we see have been painted on top of their eyelids. Simmons is referencing the “Doll Girls” subculture, which revolves around the use of makeup, costume, and surgery to create a doll-like appearance. Here, Simmons has created her own Doll Girls by enhancing the look of these models’ eyes with false eyes painted on their lids. What does this say about her perspective towards this unique subculture? By taking away her models’ vision, they are incapable of actually seeing. What they project outward is the appearance of seeing, but it is not real. Simmons is making a commentary on the actual Doll Girls, and society’s obsession with cosmetics in general. The application of false eyes (or eyeliner, or a nose job, etc) creates a startlingly real-seeming image that takes something away from the wearer. She is stripped of sight, or perhaps individuality, or even happiness in her own skin. This is the effect of cosmetics; they create a version of reality that exists for public image, and closes the wearer off from seeing how beautiful she (or he) actually is.
Simmons poses her models in front of colorful screens, and crops them at the chest. This is reminiscent of a pose for a school picture, and raises questions about how young girls are influenced by the cosmetic industry beyond the “Doll Girls” subculture. Girls are, quite literally, being blinded by the over-sexualized and over-feminized images of women in media.
Here’s a third portrait and a close-up of the eyelid effect:
One leaves this exhibit feeling a little creeped out. I personally wanted to burn every fashion magazine I own. It is a wonderful example of aesthetically beautiful and interesting artwork that addresses social issues. I thought it was especially good that Simmons included models of different ethnicities, in order to show that all women are affected by the cosmetic craze and the allure of appearing a certain way online. It affects me too. The amount of time I have spent analyzing Instagram filters is pretty disgusting, and yet I’ll probably do it again tomorrow.
Come see this eye-opening, pun completely intended, exhibit before it closes August 16th. And while you’re there, check out “Repetition and Difference” and “Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television.”
In the meantime, I’m on my way to Michaels in a bit. Feelin a lil crafty hehe
xoxo, Chloe ❤