Beauty Challenged: Artist Statement

Beauty Challenged

Everything in the physical world, both animate and inanimate, is challenged and affected by time. The quest for perfection is a continual battle against the forces of aging and injury, and maintenance of beauty requires increasing artifice.

Perfect beauty in all things living and inanimate is revered by our society. Once that beauty ages and is damaged, its embodiment becomes devalued and often is discarded.

Mannequins are exemplars of an idealized, unobtainable, youthful perfection. These cloned representations of society's ideal of beauty hold this status for a limited time. Standards of beauty are constantly changing; today's ideal facial features, hair styles and make up become quickly passé.

These generic icons achieve individuality and their own unique character only after they become marked by usage and decay. They have accidents, sit in the sun, are well treated or not, are dressed and undressed and touched countless times. Only after the mannequins get marked, reflecting their individual experiences, do they become unique.This damage is a reminder of our own mortality. Just like the humans they represent, these inanimate objects do not escape the ravages of time.

I photograph mannequins after they have become individuals. As they become “flawed” and reflect their experiences, they more truly represent us. In these photographs I interpret our reactions to our own aging, varying from profound sadness and isolation to acceptance, bravery and stoicism, to attempts to repair and arrest the effects of time. Often I alter skin tones and features to reflect more closely my own skin color and to create ethnic diversity where there was little.

These damaged facsimiles of ourselves are mementos of the transitory nature of perceived physical perfection and a reflection of the human experience. The aged mannequins are a reminder that each one of us is also uniquely marked and changed as we journey through time.

© Rebecca Martinez 2017