Lauren Kalman's Blooms, Efflorescence, and Other Dermatological Embellishments depicts dermatological disease using materials traditionally considered beautiful, creating this great dissonance between the viewer's initial disgust and the associated aesthetical appreciation. This is the best kind of art. There's something about human flesh and its deformities that I find infinitely fascinating and I love what she's done here. I've always wanted to create wallpaper in the same vein - imagine running your fingers over encrusted plaster, shaped in the most beautiful patterns but which nevertheless represent all that we seem to find repulsive - I think it'd be great.

Syphilis (2009)
Nevus Comedonicus (2009)
Cystic Acne, Back (2009)
Gonorrhea (2009)
Wart (2009)

From the curator of Anatomy in the Gallery:

In rendering the grotesque and undesirable aspects of actual human skin, Kalman’s jeweled adornments subvert conventional consumer desire for such talismanic commodities, from which buyers and wearers subconsciously seek to appropriate qualities coveted in the imagined “perfect” body. For instance, the artist explains that “gold’s brilliance, indelibility, and unoxidising surface signify beauty, purity, and immortality, qualities that are also desirable in the body,” yet her own pieces, though handcrafted using traditional metalsmithing techniques from gold, silver, and semi-precious stones, instead illustrate the physical body’s susceptibility to disfigurement, contamination, and decay.

Kalman’s photographs document these jeweled lesions and sores—most of which are more prevalent among AIDS patients—in situ on the body of a young, white woman, the stereotypical imaged body of consumer culture and one less often associated with the AIDS virus. This imaged body, which Kalman conceptually aligns with the imagined body, “is stylized, static, and manipulated, often an amalgam of bodily ideals and contemporary aesthetic paradigms.” Although her photographs retain some shock value in their depiction of pierced flesh, they also advertise these perverse piercings as jewelry, transforming them back into objects of desire connected to beauty, status, and wealth through their placement in relation to the romanticized ideal body, thereby dramatizing the corrupt and corrosive nature of consumer culture. However, her representation of disease in the documentary medium of photography, particularly as displayed in the context of a medical museum, simultaneously blurs the boundaries between commercial and medical images of the body.


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