by Georgina Hahn // Jun. 22, 2016
This article is part of our artist Spotlight Series.
Ivonne Thein’s work evokes images eerily similar to those found in the beauty industry. The qualities considered beautiful—exemplified in mass media by thin, scantily clad, “flawless” women—re-occur in her photographs and videos. These images challenge conventions of what is considered attractive in appearance. The people in Thein’s work are not pretty; in fact, quite the opposite. They are victims of visual manipulation, driven by society’s skewed definition of beauty.
How are these ideas of beauty transfixed onto the female form? What are the consequences, Thein asks, of these unrealistic expectations for women? In her series ’32 Kilos’, women who appear to weigh cripplingly little pose in distorted forms. While many women strive for a low number on the scale, Thein shows a reality that is morbidly unattractive. Photo editing allows the artist to manipulate the appearance of her models to sickly proportions. The result is something few women could claim to strive for.
These photographs have appeared in group shows focusing on body image and the consequences of media pressure. When looking at these issues through an artistic lens, viewers can experience new truths about appearance fixation in popular culture. This idea of perfection is a construct ignoring the beauty found in the body’s variety. Thein’s lack of physical diversity in her subjects communicates her critical feelings for these unnatural aesthetics. She argues that the female body mediates these social expectations at the cost of a true and natural form. A woman’s body is no longer her own, but a projection of unrealistic ideals. In her image ‘Unvollkommen’, a poreless, colourless woman appears blank in expression and devoid of human quality. The title translates to “incomplete,” but what in fact is missing? Is she incomplete without makeup? Imperfect when not adorned with jewelry?
Thein seeks to raise awareness in her work, of the men and women fixated on body image. These obsessions lead to detrimental lifestyles, with serious health effects. Her artistic voice raises an argument based on visual consequences. Thein’s photographs show that what should be perfect is not beautiful at all. Through her production of repulsive body images, viewers are led to question their own standards of beauty.