Throughout this summer during my Summer Scholars research, so many amazing things have happened. I was struggling at the beginning to come up with ideas to visually poke fun at society’s standards for beauty. In the past, I had created very safe pieces of art – they hadn’t really pushed the envelope. So I traveled to New York City to the Chelsea galleries in Manhattan to find some inspiration… and boy did I find it! There were so many fabulous shows, and I had lots of ideas to work from. I was finally able to start creating pieces that I could truly be satisfied with.
At the beginning of the summer, I started working on my own version of Rubens’ “Three Graces.” It is now finished! I depicted three attractive women in wedding dresses. It exemplifies the role, obsession, and expectation we have to get married, and to be beautiful brides. Look at every female’s Pinterest profile – I’ll bet that at least 75% of women have a wedding board. Women feel the pressure to be the most beautiful they can be. In order to achieve this maximum beauty, women often go on diets and get on a workout program just for their special day. However, sometimes, newly wedded women kick their healthy habits to the curb post-wedding. The text in my painting, purposely done in “wedding-esque” font, mocks how this happens, as well as mocks the self-assurance that cheating on a diet isn’t as bad if you have someone else do it with you. There is power in numbers. If Mary Jane and I are on a diet and she splits a tub of ice cream with me it’s not bad… right?
In my later pieces I played around with the idea of layering the shadows of an image on top of a pre-existing bottom layer, whether that bottom layer is spray paint, acrylic paint, or book pages. I really liked how the bottom layer created the actual subject. The true image was not on the superficial layer.
Two of these images reflect the emotional trauma that comes along with the pressures of society. The book pages in the second painting were taken from the book “She’s Come Undone,” which is about a girl who has turned to food for comfort from horrible past experiences. She is ridiculed for her weight and attempts suicide. I took the liberty of creating a visual of this character, as I would have pictured her. The painting of Janice Dickinson was just so much fun for me because I always remembered her on America’s Next Top Model, ripping girls apart for their appearance. As if her plastic, collagen-injected, silicone-implanted self was the hottest thing since sliced bread. Well guess what Janice? You get a mustache and uni-brow.
I continued the same layering technique with my own touch of irony in my remaining paintings. However, I used more pattern with the acrylic paint. I also chose a new subject – Marilyn Monroe. At first I was going to glorify Marilyn for being such a wonderful spokesperson for really channeling our inner beauty and being comfortable in our own skin. But then I started thinking… wasn’t she caught up in vanity just like the rest of us? It may not be obvious to see, but she still put on makeup and did what she needed to do to be considered ‘sexy’ by society. So, I decided to give Marilyn some sort of flaw that some may find unattractive, all the while keeping her appealing. I love Marilyn just as much as the next person, but there’s just something about taking someone so iconic and beautiful and making them more normal and real.
I am so excited that I was able to put my own sarcastic, jovial personality into my artwork while continuing to keep the theme and stick to the pop art feel. As far as enhancing my painting skills, I learned how to, as Professor Cope says, “draw with my paintbrush.” I found so much success in the layering and using the negative space and shadows to create the images. I am most definitely going to continue this style and reinvent it in my senior project. I cannot thank Professor Cope enough, along with those who have helped me through this whole Summer Scholars experience! Also, thank YOU so much for reading and being interested in my art and experience!
Ashley Alden is a senior from Ivyland, Pennsylania studying Art at Saint Joseph’s University. She hopes to pursue a master’s degree in Special Education and Art Education. She is a member of the Softball team and spends a lot of her free time on the field and in the gym. She is also involved with Developing Everyday Champions and the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. The images in this post are all original pieces of art created by Ashley.