Installation • Voluptuous Vanitas
My work examines romanticized representations of feminine beauty, and how western history, art and popular culture dictate our perception of what this venerated beauty is. By considering the appealing and revolting aspects of vanity, I am questioning whether attempts to capture contemporary notions of physical attractiveness are futile, or whether masquerading becomes an important aspect of navigation in an ego driven society. I am fascinated with how the pursuit of glamour--as exploited by fashion, adornment, cosmetics, grooming, surgical modifications, and other alterations of the body-- both reveals, as well as masks, one’s character. My work is inspired by vanitas, a term associated with the sixteenth century eccentric hybrid of medieval memento mori artworks and Dutch still-life painting. Vanitas is a reflection on the delicacy of life, the hollowness of vanity and death’s inescapable certainty. Vanitas has new and added implications in a postmodernist world where judgments of who we are and how we are perceived are often made by physical appearance and material accumulation, instead of by ethical and humanitarian accomplishment. Our lives are invaded with materiality and consumerism, creating an atmosphere where greed and desire dominate twenty-first century living. Though these issues have been existed since the dawn of civilization, I am both intrigued and horrified by their abundance in contemporary society. We are mortal; changing and aging is certain. Life is fleeting and death’s shadow is persistent. With the work in Voluptuous Vanitas, I am questioning what is important to legacy: modesty and humility, or glamour and opulence.
– M. Annie Kilborn, 2016