There has long been controversy swirling around too-thin models, an issue that’s been addressed by everyone from Vogue to the CFDA to the British Council of Fashion (the latter of whom banned the use of models with obvious eating disorders in London Fashion Week runway shows). Many models are, of course, healthy young women who just happen to be naturally tall and svelte. But there are those that starve themselves – or take up smoking or other unhealthy habits (such as drugs or purging) – to maintain an unrealistically skinny silhouette.
Jane Gennaro tackles the issue head-on with her scissor drawings. Cut from images in fashion magazines, the drawings are on display at FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology) alongside the artist’s sculptural versions fashioned from bones and science glass, as well as large-scale prints on metallic surfaces. The artworks are based on Gennaro’s treatise, Feed the Models, which originally aired on NPR’s All Things Considered back in 2002 and which she reprised at FIT earlier this month.
“In 1992, there was a New York magazine fashion issue. Heroin chic was in – these models looked like concentration camp victims,” Gennaro told a writer for HUE, FIT’s alumni magazine, about the original inspiration behind her show and commentary. “I wrote a letter to that effect. It made me so angry. I wasn’t going to be manipulated by it. I literally took it into my hands and cut it up. ‘You think that’s skinny? I’ll show you skinny.’”
The result is a series of images that are equal parts beautiful and disturbing – and that encourage the reader to question not only their relationship to fashion imagery in general, but to their own bodies in particular.
“As an artist I don’t think it’s my job to leave a message,” said Gennaro. “My job is to ask the questions. I would say this audience [at FIT] is more savvy about Photoshop and what goes into creating the illusion around an image than anyone, but that doesn’t mean you’re not being emotionally impacted by it. We have a form of self-slavery today when women look in the mirror and say ‘I’m too fat.’ I don’t think we can change our feelings or thoughts so much, but we can choose our actions. Say, ‘What is my intention with this creation? What is my song to the world?’ It’s an awareness.”
FEED THE MODELS: The Scissor Drawings of Jane Gennaro will be on view at the Fashion Institute of Technology through January 26, 2012.