We’re bombarded with images manufactured to manipulate our feelings and push us toward action, from targeted ads in our morning Facebook, to nighttime television with its commercials and in-content product placements. Many of the images and messages are designed to make us uneasy with our lives and choices, and urge us to resolve the resulting dissatisfactions by consuming myriad products, each promising balm for our imagined lackings.
How do we process this imagery? Are we analytical about the lifestyle ads we see? Do we tune them out? Is that even possible?
I came across a collection of bus shelter posters for bebe, the American clothing retailer, and was attracted to their generous size, sturdy stock and rich, saturated colors.
My personal relationship to these images is complex and contradictory. As an art director who spent a good number of years working in advertising and magazine editorial (including fashion), I had been responsible for my share of selecting and altering the images of women to conform to unattainable notions of perfection—a sensibility thoroughly at odds with my attunement to the “real bodies” of models who I drew and painted. Here was an opportunity to reclaim the image and its meanings.
This series, in which I redraw the central figure from my long-term friend and model, VB, directly on the lightly gessoed posters, “reuses” the poster—the material, the model’s original pose, and passages of the original image—to create a new image. The new image doesn’t replace the old, however. The original photograph, printed commercially as halftone dots in the four process colors, is in dialog with the drawing/painting on its surface. And a back-and-forth tug exists between the real woman and the bebe waif, between the created and the manufactured, between the impersonal and the personal.
Conté and acrylic on paper
72″ x 48″