I began to envision this current series of work while flipping through glamour magazines in preparation for a lesson on the Dada artist, Hannah Hoch. As I tore out images of faces, eyes, noses, and lips, so that students could use them to create a Hannah Hoch inspired photo-montage, I started to see a theme of symmetrical female beauty… or rather what today’s society calls “beauty”.
What I saw in these women’s magazines (Glamor, Vogue, Cosmo, and Oprah) was a what I would deem “socially acceptable beauty”. And although we have come a long way, women’s magazines haven’t changed that much. They still tell women what makeup will make them “society” pretty, what food will keep them thin, though this is often masked as “foods that will keep you healthy.” These magazines still discuss what to do to get a man, keep a man, and pleasure a man. They continue to tell women what clothes to wear and what not to wear. Even magazines like Oprah, which have a bit more focus on inner beauty, have a section on clothes to wear and ways to style your hair.
Alongside this discomfort I felt at seeing women narrowly placed into these societal confines of beauty, I was also inspired by the lyrics of First Aid Kit’s song Heaven Knows, which starts with the words:
You've spent a year staring into a mirror
Another one trying to figure out what you saw
Paid so much attention to what you're not
You have no idea who you are
This is reality for many people in our society. They stare into these magazines and then into the mirror and they forget to look inside themselves to build the beauty that is within them. And society doesn’t help; television, movies, magazines all sell the idea that the best and most important are the “pretty” and the young. People grow up feeling “less than” all the beautiful people. And even the “pretty” never feel like enough, because they have not filled their souls with good things and have focused on all the wrong things. They have no idea who they are.
The song continues to say:
You've lost yourself in others'
Expectations of you
Now you prefer this caricature before being true
But you're better than that
You're so much better than that
I know you better than that
The expectations the world has for beauty overshadow real beauty, the beauty that makes us all unique: the beauty of kindness and intelligence. Many women focus more on what they look like than what they think or even feel. They look for approval, not for what they do, but for how they look. They build a caricature of themselves, instead of being true to who they are.
We live in a world of images of “beautiful people.” In our society, we don’t respect age or intelligence; we love youth and beauty.
The images I created here are a jumble of beautiful faces and features put together onto each other to create a less attractive version of the person. When the features (eyes, lips, noses, ears) are in correct proportion with each other, it shows what society values as beauty. When those features are juxtaposed, so they are now too large or too small, the “beauty” is no longer evident.
But heaven knows, knows
That you're lying…
**Heaven Knows lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc By Singer/ Songwriters: Johanna Kajsa Soederberg / Klara Maria Soederberg