In our culture, art often dictates the standard of beauty. For decades, the industry has perpetuated the standard of razor-thin, taut bodies as the ideal human form; an ideal some spend their whole lives chasing. Others, like Jane Gennaro, use this “standard” as inspiration—and reject it completely.
In her newest installation, Feed The Models!, Gennaro, a Rockville Centre-bred artist, displays large-scale, manipulated cut-outs of models taken from fashion magazines and transposed on aluminum, wood and other materials. The result is a collection of singular, sharp, exaggerated figures which elicit winces and laughs at the same time.
The exhibit is a riff off of Gennaro’s eponymous monologue, which was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, in which the artist fantasizes about taking the models home with her, caring for them and feeding them lasagna.
“I want to love models./ I want to feed them/ and take care of them/ and make them better/ I want to gather them up/ in all their scary gauntness/ with no cushion or protection/ and put them in a cage/ and fatten them up.”
Gennaro’s commentary does not come from a place of criticism, but rather that of concern, without a drip of sardonic judgment. This nurturing sentiment echoes in her artwork as well—while the caricature-like figures come off as humorous, they represent an aesthetic regarded as optimal and forced-upon young women (and men) in the real world.
The gaunt, wiry figures line the exhibit’s hallway to create a sterile, bizarre runway decorated with emaciated, liquid stick figures. Arranged in strange ballet-like poses, the models contort and bend, looking Dali-esque, their clothes and skin melting off of wire-hanger bones. Bulbous hands and feet and the occasional pair of lips are the only indications that these are even human. The most disturbing part comes with the realization that the display is not very different from a real-life runway.
Gennaro’s choice to display the installation at a college is a wise one—her work lends young onlookers the opportunity to question the standard of beauty they’ve known their whole life.
Feed The Models! is on display at Adelphi University through Tuesday, Oct. 28. 1 South Ave., Garden City. 516-877-4040. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Free.
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