Tag Archives: Fashion

Malibu Betty (Pinboard #7)

Ali Kheradyar, “Malibu Betty,” 2011, c-print, 48 x 36 inches, edition of 5

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.

Sources:

http://www.alikheradyar.com/

http://sweet-station.com/blog/2012/04/dye-by-ali-kheradyar/

http://www.western-project.com/artists/ali-kheradyar/#6

 

Pinboard #6: Victoria’s Secret

During a November 2012 fashion show, Victoria’s Secret sent model Karlie Kloss down the runway wearing a leopard-print bikini, a wealth of turquoise jewelry, and a replica of a Native American headdress. In an image from the runway show (left), a reedy white woman with light brown hair and blue eyes strikes a pose. Her stance is strong, although she is half-naked and perched atop several inches of suede-fringed platform heels. Along with the heels, she wears cheetah-print bikini underwear; a belt of turquoise, silver, and more suede fringe; a suede bra; and hefty turquoise necklaces, bracelets, and rings. Atop her head is a voluminous feathered headdress made of red, black, and white feathers. Her left hand rests on her cocked hip, elbow thrust out to the side. Her half-smile suggests amusement and charm.

The headdress worn by Kloss was a replica of a war bonnet, an object of great magical and spiritual significance for Plains Indian men. The men of these tribes historically wore the bonnet into battle and now wear it for ceremonial purposes. Victoria’s Secret’s use of the war bonnet provoked ire for several reasons, primarily because it was treated as an object with no history or purpose beyond its decorative function. War bonnets are not merely dress items; each feather has significance, and the right to wear the bonnet must be earned through service to the community. Native American war bonnets are frequently used to denote “generic Indian” by sports fans, musicians, trick-or-treaters, and retailers, with no regard for their specific origins and uses.

After pictures from the runway were released to the media prior to a planned broadcast of the event, Native American activists, feminist blogs, lawyers, and journalists immediately and forcefully criticized the lingerie retailer (and, in some cases, the model).

Victoria’s Secret edited the outfit out of the televised lineup and issued a (non) apology for “offend[ing] individuals.”  Critics of the outfit charged racism, cultural appropriation, commercialization of a sacred object, and the “hypersexualization of Native American women.” [1]

Yet, it is a strange sexualization. This image – unlike the “Prairie Pinups” investigated by Aleta M. Ringlero – is not titillating. [2] It carries no hint of the dangerously foreign, no thrill of the forbidden. The erotic appeal of Kloss’ costume is nulled by its cheap parody. The headdress, when worn with animal print panties, recalls any “savage,” not a specific sexual desire. Sported by a white woman with a coy smile, it devolves into something merely cartoonish  – something safe.

[1] Ruth Hopkins, “Victoria’s Secret is Asking to be Boycotted,” Indian Country Today Media Network

[2] See Aleta M. Ringlero, “Prairie Pinups: Reconsidering Historic Portraits of American Indian Women,” in Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self, ed. Coco Fusco and Brian Wallis, (New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams, 2003)

 

Pinboard #5: Andrej Pejic & Erika Linder

In the black and white photograph on the right, model Erika Linder poses against a white backdrop. She wears loose-fitting jeans, open at the waist, which slip from her hips to reveal the band of briefs beneath the pants. The outline of a star is tattooed on her muscular stomach. Her arms are held in front of her chest and her hands grip a t-shirt; this pose conceals a seemingly sunken chest. Her face, devoid of makeup, grimaces. Her short hair is in disarray. In the color image below, male model Andrej Pejic wears a black wrap dress, long blond bedhead, and subtle, feminine makeup. The dress has slipped off of the left shoulder, and a bra strap is visible. Text lines next to Pejic’s silhouette convey that the image was produced for a Dutch lingerie advertisement, selling a bra that claims to add two cup sizes.

Are these images intended to be humorous? Perhaps – but only those in the know.  Linder, a woman, frequently works as a male model. Pejic, a man, frequently works as a female model. Linder is not a drag king, and Pejic is not a drag queen; neither model caricatures, exaggerates, or lampoons gender norms. Instead, each model conceals himself or herself within the costume of the familiar. Each model works the parameters of gender to his or her professional advantage. Linder and Pejic conform exactly to current standards of masculine and feminine beauty. They simply don’t conform the beauty standard expected of their respective sexes.

Erika Linder and Andre Pejic force us to reconsider how we recognize and react to male and female bodies. I suggest that we looked at these bodies as sexed (if not gendered), and ask why we recognize Linder as “male” in the image on the left (when she is recognizably “female” in other images) and Pejic as “female” in the image on the right (when he is recognizably “male” in other images). Which elements of Pejic’s wardrobe and makeup tell us that he should be read as she? Which aspects of Linder’s outfit and physiognomy categorize her as male? Further, do we consider these distinctions useful and expedient? Are they visually or erotically attractive? Which norms are disrupted by these images? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, are norms disrupted at all if no further explanation is attached to the images?