80’s Pop Icons
I am very disturbed by the current images of women in current pop culture. The Mylie Cyrus debacle last summer brought this critique to a peak. Watching her performance at the VMA’s,
I wondered what had gone wrong? What are young people looking at? Mylie stormed around the stage like a robot in some kind of sick cartoonish nightmare staged with overtly racist imagery. It seems like we are going backwards.
A carefully strategized PR campaign of objectification, sexualization and perversion drives popular culture. I started looking closely at the other prominent pop stars and saw similar examples of hyper-sexuality. To me, Katie Perry is stylized to look like a large porcelain doll with wide doe eyes, fake eyelashes and latex fetishized outfits.
I began to ask questions. What do these women represent to the younger generation? What are they teaching them about what it means to be a woman? How are these manufactured personalities different than the ones that Gen X grew up with? With these thoughts came nostalgia.
I began a journey into my childhood memory and began to think deeply about what I was looking at as a child. What messages were the pop stars I was looking at sending into my young mind? What were they teaching me about what it would mean to be a woman?
In my mind these women I was looking at in the eighties were much stronger, more diverse in age, looks and colour. These women were pushing gender boundaries (ie. Annie Lennox / Grace Jones) and represented change and progression. I placed the image of Queen Latifah next to Nicki Manaj…and the contrast is striking, Latifah standing strong, Afrocentric, body positive.
I realized that I learned a lot from these women, and I began to paint them. As I was painting, I reflected on those distant fuzzy memories of seeing them on Much Music, going to their concerts, and reading about them in teen magazines. What had they taught me? This series on glass represents those TV screens and, in turn, the iphone and computer screens we look at now. I invite the viewer to look through this personal homage and reflect on how culture has changed, how the messaging has been corrupted, and ask the question: what are they looking at?