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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Vision To Visuals: Keeping It Real

Rachel Hovnanian challenges perceptions of female beauty


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Imagine experiencing a parallel reality of our world that serves as an antidote to our pervasive media culture, which undermines women's sense of self-image and confidence through its artificial constructs of beauty. With social media becoming the de rigueur method of keeping connected with "friends," women being marketed, constructed myths of what it means to be "beautiful" and our global culture turning to digital networks to shape its identity, we're all silently experiencing a colossal churning of social, economic, political and cultural forces that are overwhelming our individual lives. An alternative perspective on this reality is sorely needed to reconnect us back to ourselves and to give people, especially women, a new perspective on what it means to be truly themselves without stereotype and prejudice.

Rachel Hovnanian, a powerfully versatile multimedia artist, with whom we have had the great pleasure of working over the past decade, is that rare visual poet of our era, who uses her visual oeuvre to articulate our world into bite-sized nuggets of wisdom. Hovnanian is a sculptor, painter, narrator, photographer and filmmaker, who invites us into a visual dialogue with her creations and reconnects us back to ourselves.

Hovnanian explores the artificial constructs of beauty played out in our consumer culture and often brings out this theme in her works. Her powerful exhibit Too Good to Be True, which just opened in Hong Kong, shows beauty queens photographed on archival paper. Some of these images, clutching knives and stabbing the competition ("Beauty Queen Backstabbers"), are particularly cinematic. A photograph of a beauty queen whose body appears larger in the mirror explores themes of self-image. In another medium is a unique lightbox that we collaborated in production with the artist. Her specs required a design utilizing motion sensors within a two-way mirror. Once again, Hovnanian positions us like voyeurs hiding behind a bush to get a good look at what's going on.

Hovnanian is a forceful visual poet whose formal training in fine art allows her to gracefully articulate complex concepts into art installations that have the capacity to convert us. She has been an artist ever since she was a child. Her artist parents discouraged her from playing with Barbie dolls, instead emphasizing that "what was inside your brain is what is most important." This supportive, intellectual encouragement from the very beginning, in addition to growing up in Texas, sharpened her sensibility and inspired her to translate patterns of human behavior directly into her work.

 

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