If you click here, you will see the most recent work of Anna Utopia Giordano entitled Venus.

She photoshopped famous nudes and removed inches in certain places and added them to others.  (Actually, you might not see them at all because either the artist’s site has been toppled by web traffic or Giordano might truly be on an “ascetic retreat”…)

Here’s a sample.  On top, Artemisia Gentileschi’s “The Sleeping Venus” and on the bottom, Venus if she was featured on the cover of Maxim…

True.  Notions of beauty are mercurial.  What was considered attractive in the 17th century might be considered less so by today’s Paris Vogue standards.  There is also another point about the ruse which is photography (even though the originals involved are oil paintings).  As Susan Sontag wrote in On Photography:

Photographs, which fiddle with the scale of the world, themselves get reduced, blown up, cropped, retouched, doctored, tricked out. They age, plagued by the usual ills of paper objects; they disappear; they become valuable, and get bought and sold; they are reproduced.

Photoshop takes all of this fiddling to a qualitatively different level.  So boys and girls, remember!  Beware of the printed image for it lies!  Lies!!  Do not fashion yourselves in its image for you, unlike it, cannot be tweaked with a clone stamp or healing brush tool.

However, I found myself looking at these images and clicking forward then back, here she is normal then here she is emaciated, here she is with small boobs, here she is with big ones, click click click, I  grew increasingly disturbed.  I worried that folks might not get the joke.  They may look at the fluffled version and think:  Damn, that skinnier Venus is way hotter.  (Okay, for a minute, I did too.  Guilty.)

Bigger boobies very nice!

Folks might even want to buy postcards and high quality prints of the tweaked versions.  (Okay, I thought about it, but, in the end, no.)    Frat houses across the North American could adorn their walls with, say, the upgraded version of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus with the claim: “But it’s art, dude!  It’s Art!!”

I would not be surprised if folks soon lobbied for the photoshopped versions to replace the originals because the former demonstrated that the latter were in need of improvement… and perkier nipples.

The danger of this kind of provocation, be in the form of art or humour (see: “Borat”) is that there are folks who might not get it and then, after catching a thirty second over-simplification in the mainstream press, will think that the painting or film or installation or book expresses the opposite of what that provocation is trying to force you to thoughtfully confront.

After re-reading this post, I realized that it was (a) a big departure from the stuff I usually write about here at The Next Jew (although Sacha Baron Cohen is a Next Jew as his his wife Isla Fisher! …and “Borat” definitely confronts issues of Jewish identity and power in the new century bla bla bla and that perhaps, finally, the personal (read: Vanity of vanities, blogging is vanity…) has irrupted into the political and that (b) perhaps my concern that folks will not get the joke comes off as a bit paternalistic and condescending.  In the end, I am comfortable with both.

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