Looking fitter and younger can certainly be helped by healthy diet, exercise, sports, and muscle building. Some people also turn to hair coloring and cosmetic procedures, and this is the fourth article discussing these topics in some detail. It may be easiest to scroll down to the earlier posts, which appeared on January 2, 2010 (https://www.irasabs.com/?p=3400), December 28, 2009 (https://www.irasabs.com/?p=3287)and December 20, 2009(https://www.irasabs.com/?p=3153).

Millions of women modify their features thru cosmetic surgery, so they will look like: celebrities they admire; their own ideas of what is beautiful; or what will make them more attractive to men.

A totally different approach to altering one’s looks took place from 1990 to 1993, when a performance artist named Orlan carried out a series of nine surgeries viewed live by audiences during which her face was transformed through plastic surgery. Orlan’s “Carnal Art” was an attempt to question stereotypical ideas about beauty promoted by advertising, fashion and media professionals.

Orlan long before any surgeries—1977

Orlan long before any surgeries—1977


Orlan—1977

Orlan—1977

You can see what she looked like in these pre-surgery pictures of her in 1977.

Years after the surgeries, she said, “…with cosmetic surgery, you can look like a Barbie doll, or some big star, or you can try to create you own inner portrait.”

One of her objectives was to embody the enduring visions of beauty created by renowned painters throughout history. She accomplished this seemingly impossible goal by surgically replicating the most cherished facial feature as it was presented in each famous artist’s most revered artwork.

Orlan after some of the surgeries—1992

Orlan after some of the surgeries—1992

For example, she has the chin of Botticelli’s Venus, the nose of Gerome’s Psyche, the lips of François Boucher’s Europa, the eyes of Diana from a sixteenth-century French painting and the forehead of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Orlan picked these characters, “not for the canons of beauty they represent… but rather on account of the stories associated with them.” Diana because she is inferior to the gods and men, but is leader of the goddesses and women; Mona Lisa because of the standard of beauty, or anti-beauty, she represents; Psyche because of her fragility and vulnerability within the soul; Venus for carnal beauty and notions of fertility; Europa for her adventurous outlook to the horizon, the future.

Orlan as Frankenstein's fiancee

Orlan as Frankenstein's fiancee

Yet another surgery implanted two symmetrical bumps that look like horns in her forehead to mimic the protruding brow of Mona Lisa. Sometimes she highlights these protrusions with glitter.

Orlan with forehead bumps

Orlan with forehead bumps

The events that brought her closer to achieving ultimate beauty were celebrated and special. Each surgery was captured on video, fed to live international audiences via satellite link-ups, and exhibited in a number of galleries in Europe and the U.S.

Instead of the sterile environment of the operating room, she constructed an operating ‘theater’ in which everything was choreographed, and the space was decorated with flowers. Famous designers, such as Paco Rabanne and Issey Miyake, designed costumes for Orlan and her doctors to wear during the surgeries. Poetry was read and music played, while she lay on the operating table fully conscious of the events taking place (only local anesthetic was used) read from scripts and answered questions from viewers around the world.

In all these ways she demonstrated that there are many standards of excellence and diverse models of beauty. Read the rest of this entry »

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