Appearance is something most of us consider an important part of identity. We always want to look our best, whether personally or publicly as we present our lives to other people. So what happens when we alter this perfectly poised appearance we aim for and transform into something else? What if something seemingly perfect isn’t what it appears to be?
Altered Appearances is an exhibit that seeks to examine this concept. The images selected for the show all have something slightly off about them. Sometimes you can’t quite put your finger on what’s wrong – it’s just a feeling. One image included is “Kirsten” by Inez and Vinoodh, which first appeared in Visionaire 19 BEAUTY. The angelic looking subject has her eyes closed and seems to glow, with porcelain-perfect skin (made up by our very own James Kaliardos) and ruby red lips. But upon closer examination we see that her eyes are not fully shut, and a sliver of white eyeball is visible, staining the perfect image we had envisioned, and shifting the idea of the girl as an angel into a different creature entirely. Another standout example is Gregory Crewdson’s eerie work. His seemingly quotidian images of American family situations gain an unnerving atmosphere with his use of lights and dark settings, transforming a bus driver stopping on your street into a different experience entirely.
And not all the selected images are of people. Several shots of architecture, interiors and exteriors also appear. Normal scenes, like one shot by Matthew Barney of a car dealership, make you feel as though you are the last person in the world, someone who has stumbled across an undisturbed relic from a pre-apocalyptic time. All of the featured images mandate closer inspection and attention than just a cursory glance – and in fact they command it, with their off-kilter ambiance and distinctive subject matter.