© Copyright 2020 Naomi Shafadov, Ryerson University.
The object of my inquiry into visual culture is the socially constructed norms surrounding females and beauty on social media, mainly body positivity. I have made a photo collage in the shape of a woman’s body, using images and adjectives from online magazines and billboard advertisements. This collage shows how women’s bodies are regulated and enhanced by photo editing tools, in order to fit with society’s beauty standards of women’s bodies. I decided to use magazines, advertisements and brand photoshoots since it was the approach I took in exploring my research question, as both print and social media are one of the main culprits of the unrealistic beauty standards set by society. Furthermore, I have also posted photos of the collage on Tumblr, as this social media platform includes posts where people have openly spoken about their body image. I have also consulted a few examples that represent the various problems surround body image, and how various people are affected by it, both personally and indirectly. These norms surrounding how a woman should look affect them both mentally and physically, resulting in different mental illnesses and issues in their social life.
Process of Creation Involved in Constructing the Work
Once I heard about this project in class, my mind was already set on body image and beauty standards, as these are areas I struggle with personally. I felt as though I wanted to create something beautiful in an artistic way that would send a message to viewers that these standards exist, and that someone in the same environment as them has been personally effected by these standards. I had intended to use physical magazines and take photos of advertisements I see in my day-to-day activities, however with the global pandemic we are currently experiencing, I was not able to; the federal government issues the closure of all shopping centers and for people to practice social distancing. However, since everything is mainly digital today, as we have discussed in class, I was able to continue with my original production. This further answers the research question and provides a closer look at these norms in apps and websites we use daily or are familiar with.
It is undeniable that we live in a society mainly dominated by males, whose hormones and sex drives control how they perceive women. While gender roles and stereotypes were most prominent in the early 1900’s, they still exist today, and the form my work takes showcases that. I believe the photo collage formulates a critical argument as magazines and advertisements prove that social media is a toxic place and can mentally affect a person, even if the original intent, depending on the context, was not to do that. They also show how people are surrounded by these norms and can never escape them unless these platforms change their courses of action. Furthermore, these images convey emotional languages of the audience as they are disturbing and offensive. When I view these images, I feel angry and upset that these magazines and advertisements continuously and openly publish these images and adjectives/titles without remorse. It is interesting to see how these outlets either do not notice or care about the messages they convey about body image, whether it’s how a celebrity looks or how an average person should look (i.e. fitness magazines that tell someone how to lose their “Christmas belly” in 2 weeks). It is also interesting to see whether or not the editors, publishers or marketers behind these outlets are males or not. This is important as the beauty standards set by society are mainly constructed from men’s views and opinions of how women should look, based on who their ideal woman is.
The artists that informed my work’s style were Georges Braque, Picasso and Eduardo Paolozzi as I liked their various styles of Cubism, mixed media and individual identity (Wolfe, 2019). While studying various artworks by Braque and Picasso, the idea to piece the images from magazines and advertisements together so that they form into a women’s body came to life. I was intrigued by how these two artists used mixed media, such as charcoal and wood-grain wallpaper, to create texture and shading without using typical supplies, such as oil paint and pencil (Wolfe, 2019). While these artists are known for their technique of Cubism, I decided to focus more on other geometrical shapes rather than just cubes/squares, especially since I was gluing the image together to form a woman’s body. When studying Paolozzi’s artworks, I focused more on his style of using bright colours that “reflected the way contemporary culture and mass media influence individual identity” (“Eduardo Paolozzi Bio”). I resonated more with Paolozzi as I felt like we had similar styles in our works; he was well known for being one of the first people to use advertisements to showcase the “American” lifestyle portrayed in magazines and media (“Eduardo Paolozzi Bio”). Furthermore, he also used the form of collage to showcase how we flip through magazines and television channels without actually reading the contexts. I followed a similar approach in the sense that I wanted to showcase how prominent beauty standards are in magazines, but we might miss that since we tend to skim through articles and advertisements unless we need to kill time. I would’ve loved to incorporate physical magazines into my work as Paolozzi did, but given the current circumstances we’re facing I was not able to, so I focused on emphasizing elements such as colour (bright ones like yellow) and size (big, bold fonts) in order to encapsulate Paolozzi’s collage style.
I learned a lot about the influence of mass media on society and how prominent these norms on beauty are, even though we might have thought they weren’t as apparent as they used to be. From completing this project, I am hoping that viewers will be content that someone is speaking about a very important topic that is present in people’s lives every day, which I think means many viewers will relate to my project. I also hope they appreciate the artistic use of various body images to produce one big collage in the shape of something, while incorporating some techniques from the most famous artists and bringing back forms of art that may not be as popular as they once were.
Work Posted on Tumblr
“Eduardo Paolozzi Paintings, Bio, Ideas.” The Art Story, www.theartstory.org/artist/paolozzi-eduardo/.
Israel, Matthew. “The Birth of Collage and Mixed-Media.” Artsy, 6 Feb. 2014, www.artsy.net/article/matthew-the-birth-of-collage-and-mixed-media.
Paolozzi, Eduardo. “Collage.” National Galleries of Scotland, www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/24027/collage.
Wolfe, Shira. “The History of Collage in Art – Tracing the Medium.” Artland Magazine, 25 July 2019, www.magazine.artland.com/the-history-of-collage-art/.
Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.