Twin Cities photographer Laura Crosby did nothing to disguise her intent when she assembled the 19 black and white prints for her one-woman exhibit in the Central Lakes College Gallery.
She's a self-proclaimed social critic who strives to render the shocking truths about ourselves in the haunting shades of her sepia-toned prints. She says she "loves to use my camera to bring social issues to the forefront."
In her CLC exhibit, the camera's eye reveals the artist's "outrage at how the media can manipulate images of women" into slaving for "The Beauty Myth," the title for the show.
"Beauty," which hangs through March 22, evokes anything but. Its images reveal the ugly, brutal and depressing side of a culture run amuck in the search of the perfect look.
But viewers beware, some of Crosby's prints might be too painful to look at, including the close-up shot of a breast implant gone awry, with sutures and all.
Crosby's subject matter may not ring pretty (or even true), but the exhibit demonstrates the power of her lens, a talent she decries in the hands of those she blames for the so-called "beauty myth."
By implication, her work vilifies the "diet-fashion-cosmetic-fitness-media-medical conglomerate" for our willingness to carve and sculpt our body parts, with surgery, exercise or even a trip to the beauty shop.
"The Beauty Myth" also silently condemns us for being so stupid, vain and gullible, but most of all for becoming victims. At 63, Crosby is one angry woman.
"Women are willing to pay tremendous amounts of money and risk their physical well-being to achieve an image of beauty that is not authentic," Crosby writes in the "artist's statement" that hangs framed with the show.
"The images ... are largely unobtainable because they are altered by makeup artists, photographers and computer imagers who can add a mole, remove a scar, thicken a lip, enhance a breast, widen the eyes and remove wrinkles," the statement says.
Crosby, on the other hand, just aimed her camera in the direction of the hospital wards, exercise barns and other beauty farms to find her images, as stark in style and tone as the advertising counterpart would be rich in color and detail. Crosby fights fire with fire, so to speak, to get her point across.
Most of all, "Beauty Myth" is intended as a wakeup call "for young girls and women to become more aware of the seriousness of the problem," the artist said.
In her view, the problem rests with the beauty industry, which she blames for the "commodification of the body and the slick slide from health and beauty maintenance to body obsession, body mutilation and lack of self-esteem."
As if the prints somehow fall short of making the point, Crosby has included reams of printed documentation to support her viewpoint. The exhibit visitor, however, will have to decide for herself.
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