Reflections on Paper Dolls

Even the most incurious visitor to the Hamon Arts Library cannot have helped but notice the six works posted near the entryway.  These pieces are part of a series entitled “Paper Dolls,” by Colleen Shull (SMU MFA ’11) and Justin Shull (former SMU Division of Art Adjunct Lecturer).  This show, curated by guest curator Shannon Maylath, features pictures from fashion magazines that have been altered, scratched, cut, torn and crumpled…exploded as it were.
The images are recognizable but transformed, altered from their original appearance and context in such a way that the viewer is confronted both with the symbols of fashion and the formal aspects of the images…the colors, the sense of depth, the juxtaposition of the conventions of fashion photography made mysterious by the alterations.   These images are reborn, visible and present in a way the original photographs were not.

Colleen notes that her two-and-a-half year-old daughter already knows without instruction from her parents that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. Already taking cues from fashion magazines and other advertising, soon her daughter will recognize that the photographs on the magazines at the grocery store, “are giving her inviting, seductive, unapologetically erotic gazes, compelling her to discover their secrets of success.”

Paper Doll Transmission 140 by Coleen Shull and Justin Shull.
Paper Doll Transmission 140 by Coleen Shull and Justin Shull.
The images in the show turn our attention to the women within the photographs, no longer objectified, but still at a distance from the viewer.  These images are intended to force the viewer to consider the impact of the standards and assumptions of our shared consumer culture.

Finally, the images are sensual, seductive as with the original images, but recast in a way that forces the viewer to constantly readjust the viewer’s reaction to the pictures.  The unblemished skin of the models is pockmarked with tears, folds and other physical distortions. The images, originally circulated on Instagram, are all arresting and singular.

The show, provided with support from the Division of Art, SMU/Meadows School of the Arts and sponsored by a grant from the Friends of the SMU Libraries/Colophon,  will be on display until December 13th.

Thanks to Jolene de Verges, Director of Hamon Arts Library, for this guest blogpost!

Featured image by Sara Outhier.

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