Abandoning pen, brush, and potter’s wheel, Anna Utopia Giordano’s thoroughly modern artwork uses only Photoshop software. With this program, Giordano digitally replicated and altered Renaissance classic masterpieces to fit within modern standards of beauty. Perusing the 15 slides of her work featured in The New York Daily News last month, one can see just how much ideals of attractiveness have changed in the past few centuries. The luscious curves of Botticelli’s radiant Venus slide away, leaving a taunt stomach and toned thighs, while Artemisia Gentileschi’s Venus is shrunk to half her size. An image of William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s “La Naissance de Vénus,” and Giordano’s altered version of the work are placed side by side. The new Venus has a whittled down waist, frailer arms, and more prominent knees, yet her breasts remain exactly the same size. This same phenomenon occurs slide after slide, flesh vanishing away, rolls and folds forsaken for bony statures that somehow retain their voluptuous breasts. This, we are told, is beauty.
Giordano discusses her new depictions of Venus, claiming the role of art is to find and create physical perfection. These admired and sought after proportions of skeleton bodies with curvaceous breasts are the “perfection” of modern society, the aesthetic we all must pursue to be beautiful. But who decides that this is beautiful? Once upon a time, as the Renaissance artists show us, perfection was a fuller, rounder figure. A body type we would now think of us as “plump,” “chubby,” or “out of shape.” Beauty changes with the times as money, fashion, and of course men, determine the way women should maintain their bodies. Yet if these aesthetics truly are this fickle, how much energy should we expend on the pursuit of perfection? If Venus, the most beautiful goddess of all Mount Olympus, can have both rotund, sensuous thighs and lean, muscled legs, then are not all bodies beautiful? People come in all shapes and sizes and throughout history vastly different body types have been coveted and adored. The bodies we yearn for and worship in today’s society are digitally perfected images, images in which all flaws, quirks, and uniqueness have been erased in the name of flawless skin and uniformity. If nothing else, Giordano’s digital changes show us that there is not one set definition of beautiful and there is no such thing as physical perfection. As the old saying goes, beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.
To see the slide and read the full story on the New York Daily News check out this link.
Written by Elizabeth Huppert ’12.