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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Vision To Visuals: Feed The Models!

Jane Gennaro’s extraordinary project to highlight the bizarre and troubling state of today’s fashion models

The “Feed the Models!” project on display at the World Monuments Fund Gallery in New York City.

I want to love models. I want to feed them and take care of them and make them better...
These opening lines from “Feed the Models!” a monologue performed on NPR’s “All Things Considered” by artist Jane Gennaro, are the genesis of her solo exhibition that Duggal helped launch at the World Monuments Fund Gallery in New York City last month. Gennaro can’t easily be labeled as an artist of a specific genre, with her versatility extending across disparate media as a performer, writer, sculptor, cartoonist, voice-over artist and an illustrator. It’s consummate storytelling that unifies Gennaro’s work across these different spheres, and it was the story behind her unique works that she hesitatingly brought into Duggal one day, which led me to offer Gennaro the full support of our creative and production team to help create the spectacular “Feed the Models!” exhibition.

“Feed the Models!” began with Gennaro’s personal focus on femininity and presentation of the body form in media, leading her to question the phenomenon of extremely thin models in the fashion industry. Emotionally affected by seeing ever-increasing photographs of thinner and thinner models in magazines, Gennaro conceived of a unique art form to communicate her point of view on this phenomenon—she started using scissors like pens to cut out delicate figure shapes from the magazine pages on which the models were featured. The shapes she cuts are extremely thin, but mimic the shape of the model represented in the picture. These fluid silhouettes are cut with such precision that they start to look like a drawing resembling surreal human abstractions reminiscent of Paul Klee’s or Dali’s works.

Those of us who work intimately inside the fashion industry have become immune to the fragile human forms that personify our favorite fashion brands. It takes an artist like Gennaro to reflect back to us the truth—the tension that lies underneath the beautiful mirage of carefully doctored aesthetics and loss of self-identity. Dominique Nahas is an art critic who comments on Gennaro’s work and puts it best when he says, “Her work pertains to the oscillating appetite of the American psyche that veers between repulsion and desire that culminates in the objectification of the female body.”

Like many artists who, when they first walk into Duggal’s retail store on 23rd Street in Manhattan, are both overwhelmed and intimidated by the choices available to them, Gennaro and her digital collaborator Lynne Lipton reconsidered their original intent to produce the show on small Giclée prints when they arrived at our store. In my first meeting with them, I spotted the unique interplay of art and technology in their work and convinced them to open their minds and allow us to challenge the conventional standards of size, materials and display techniques that they had intended.


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