With the sole project prompt of making the invisible visible, or bringing attention to something that rarely gets attention, my mind immediately flitted to the insidious pressure on girls and their appearances. I thought about the different aspects that get molded and conformed to society’s invisible guidelines, whether it be the burning and flat-ironing of a girl’s naturally beautiful wavy hair or the ridiculous dieting to turn curves into flesh and bone. However I finally realized that one of the aspects and transformations in girls
that gets the least real attention is the time and detail put into the application of make-up, the caking on of foundation to cover freckles and blemishes, or the pinching and pulling of an eyelash curler.
The appalling difference between natural beauty and the saturated layer of makeup gets barely any attention in day to day life, because to the outside world, a woman’s makeup layer is her natural face that the people surrounding her are used to. In actuality, most girls strive for that illusion of “natural” beauty, despite it being formed by various coatings of makeup, and this practice is starting younger and younger.
The aspect of all of this that I really wanted to bring attention to was that image of peeling off a layer of a made-up face only to realize that the real face is underneath. I thought through how I would go about doing this for my project itself, and my first step was to collect a series of photographs of girls completely free from the restricting layer of makeup–no foundation, no mascara, nothing.
For part of the run of this project, I was at a 3-week visual arts intensive at Penny Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, and I ended up having to go as far as ambushing girls with a camera as they came out of the dorm bathroom post-washing their face. Pretty bogus, but effective.
In my art, in addition to of course focusing on the final product, I like to think about the process itself – like how the process changes and morphs and grows its own ideas, or how it affects how I perceive my art. In this case, I had no idea how excruciatingly difficult it would be to get a teenage girl to agree to let me take a picture of her without make up, and I thought that emphasized the message of my project even more.
The final product came out as this: Large, blown up photographs of girls, straight faced, against a blank wall, all without a dab of make up on their faces. On top of each photograph, I placed a sheet of wax paper the same size as the actual photograph. Finally, on top of the wax paper I brought out my actual make up bag full of the make up I use myself everyday to create my own faux layer, and I put the makeup on the girls’ photographic, wax paper faces, where one would actually put it. By the time they were done and hanging on the wall, the viewer could walk right up to one, lightly lift the wax paper that held the painted on makeup, and “peel the layer off” to be greeted by the photo of the girl’s natural, beautiful face underneath, getting its title “Peel Me, See Me.”