Friday, July 14, 2006

From Russia with Love

Here are a few newer drawings from the From Russia with Love series I've been working on for the past few months. I have completed 30 drawings so far, and will need to have 72 finished
to fill the storefront space I'll be exhibiting them in.

Each portrait is of a Russian "Mail Order Bride," as drawn from internet websites- two in particular which deal in "matchmaking" American and European men with predominately Russian and Asian women. I started this project after I saw a startling fashion feature in, of all places, Vice Magazine, featuring "Mail Order Brides" modelling their own clothing. Accompanying each photo was a short interview with each girl about what their professions and what they do for fun, etc. The common denominator between these girls, all but one in their early twenties, was their utter FIXATION on finding a man to marry. Their tone, in some cases, was rather one girl put it, "Russian women know how to sacrifice and how to serve..." or something along those lines. As women, we can all understand this to some degree...but any contemporary western woman would find the frankness of such a STEPFORD-ian statement unsettling.

Speaking of which, as I drew my first portrait of this series (not knowing where I was really going with the idea), I was reminded of that infamous scene in the Stepford Wives when Katharine Ross' portrait was drawn by an "artist" in Stepford's Men's Club- all the while not knowing that it was a part of a study to build her subservient human-robot replacement. It was funny how unconciously, my drawing style and composition seemed to mimic the dreamy, yet subtly malevolent quality of a lot of illustration from the early 1970's..and more specifically the drawing of Katharine Ross in that film.

Previous work of mine has involved the serial portrait- yearbook portraits and soldiers portraits in WWII-era printed matter in particular. One way to look at portraits of this nature is that they are almost like human catalogues. The concept of the "human catologue" certainly rings true in the case of websites cataloguing foreign women as a hot commodity for men from more affluent countries. By drawing these portraits, I am attempting to subvert the idea of these women as being a part of a human catalogue, while returning to the idea of their commodification through their presentation within the context of a storefront installation and a bookwork "catalogue" multiple.

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