Since I saw her work featured at the Austin Museum of Art, my admiration for Alyson Fox's work has been a consistent theme in my blog and her recent project is a testament to why I believe she is an up-and-coming artist of our generation. Her new book, A Shade of Red, documents a collectivity of women who don the same red lipstick. Like most, I was intrigued with the idea of what shade of red she chose for these women and what kind of spectrum of women she photographed. While a book of centered around red lipstick is consistent with her feminine aesthetic, this project pushes the envelope intellectually through it's connection with historical tragedy. When I visited the website, I felt overwhelmingly connected with the book when reading the artist's statement; it offers the first epithet:
It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived…Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips….That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.– Colonel Gonin (commenting on the liberation of the Bergen-Belson concentration camp.)
As a student in critical theory, her project resonated with my continual interest in the human condition through literature, history, and art. I'd be interested to find out more about how she encountered Colonel Gonin's commentary on WWII concentration camps, since the Holocaust is a subject that has deeply affected me since I was a child. Alyson offers us an opportunity to think about femininity in connection to humanity and moreso, cosmetic resilience in face of unfathomable suffering.
In addition, her reference to Roland Barthes urges me to think more deeply about the exhibitionist and aesthetic choices we make each day and how this perhaps unknowingly connects with a diverse community of women. I believe Alyson Fox describes her project most poignantly when she writes in the statement: "These photographs have shown me that posing for someone, or 'making' yourself up are not about vanity or superficiality, but about connection, about 'humanity' as Colonel Gonin says [...] [I]n the end, I think we were brought together by two twin desires: One, the lure of the lipstick, of the chance to become ourselves by becoming someone else, and two, the desire to connect with people and be part of something." I think it was a brilliant move on Alyson's part to bring together something that everyday women can connect with (red lipstick or Revlon’s #740 Certainly Red to be exact) and as a result, form an even larger community of women who "desire to connect with people and be part of something" on our blogs and in our lives.
Images and statement found here.