Ali Kheradyar is a Los Angeles based artist of Iranian heritage although she was born and raised in the United States. Her training is in music and dance. Much of her work focuses on the female body and, in many instances, her own body. These works use the body as a jumping off point to explore themes such as beauty, sculpture, commercialization, sexuality and gender.
This work entitled, “Malibu Betty” from 2011 is part of Kheradyar’s Dye series. In Dye, Kheradyar photographs portraits of her pubic hair covered in Betty Hair Dye. The dye specifically designed for use on one’s pubic hair and is for women who want their pubic hair to match the hair on their head whether it is blonde, brunette, pink, purple, or, as is the case in this work, Malibu Blue. The minimalistic image features a cropped close-up of Kheradyar’s lower torso, legs and pubic region. Her pubic hair is matted with a thick layer of the Malibu Blue dye which contrasts starkly to the pale tone of her skin and brings an element of playfulness to an otherwise muted work.
For the artist, the dye raised a number of questions, as she writes, “What was this practice about? The commercialization of the female? Consumerism? Color? Challenging the male gaze, or partaking in female objectification? How are these products appealing? Is this sexy? What do these products say about sex culture and beauty now?” Many of these questions remain unresolved in Kheradyar’s work. Without knowing the artist’s background or the context of the work, the image could easily be an advertisement for the product. At the same time, Kheradyar’s use of her own body and its simultaneous simple presentation coupled with assertive presentation of the self, echo Ana Mendieta. However, such contradictions and layered meanings are an essential part of the questioning process Kheradyar is driving at. Her work highlights the ways in which sexuality can at times be ridiculous, absurd and even funny doing so an practical and straightforward manner. Rather than poking fun at a product that turns your pubic hairs blue, to form this observation, however, she simply uses it as it was intended to be used. In this regard, her work turns the questions she seeks to address to the viewer. You can almost feel her asking the viewer, in genuine curiosity, “is this sexy?” In turning this question around rather than explicitly asking it by presenting herself in a provocative or sarcastic mode, she is able to effectively disrupt a simple reading of her work.