John M. Flaxman Library: News & Events
Curated by Susan Mackey
July 20–August 17
Flaxman Library Special Collections
Sharp Building, 37 S. Wabash Ave., 5th floor
In her book Monster/Beauty: Building the Body of Love, art historian Joanna Frueh defines “monster/beauty” as “an extremely articulated sensuous presence, image, or situation in which the aesthetics and the erotic are inseparable.” Monster/Beauty rejects traditional models of beauty which rely on control and punishment and contribute to what Frueh calls an “aesthetics of deprivation.” Instead, monster/beauty calls for embodiment that focuses not only on visual pleasure, but on all senses. Monster/Beauty explodes traditional notions of beauty and makes room for the artificial, the excessive, the silly, and the grotesque.
The images in this exhibit progress from aesthetics of deprivation; to a monster/beauty that seduces; to a monster/beauty that antagonizes and repulses.
This exhibition departs from Frueh’s notion of a “body of love”—a body that is sensuous, pleasurable, and interpersonal—and considers the political implications of ugliness. In her recent article “Becoming Ugly,” Madeleine Davis reflects on a lifetime of being “pretty” for men and how, in the age of Trump, becoming ugly is one of few weapons that women have to resist bodily terrorism.
“I can’t deny my current impulse to become as ugly and unlikeable as I can, merely to serve as constant reminder of the ugliness inflicted upon us. We’ve been told time and time again that prettiness and likability will protect us from harm, that to be good women, we must play by these rules, but this is a lie. Nothing will protect us except for ourselves—and what’s more fortifying than a defensive exterior? There are days when all I want is to become a human road sign, a blinking hazard to any man misfortunate enough to cross my path: ‘I WANT TO OFFEND YOUR SIGHT. I WANT TO OFFEND YOUR EVERYTHING.’”
image: Matthew Barney, CRF: Faerie Field, 1994