Marie-Lou Desmeules is French-Canadian artist currently based in Spain who uses layers of paint and plastic to perform “surgery” on people, sculpting them into bizarre representations of celebrities, world leaders, housewives, bondage, and more. Encounter Desmeules’ creations and you will undoubtedly look twice (or thrice): her “living canvases” are alarming and oftentimes grotesque. The slabs of paint make her sculptures look as if their skin is about slough off like wax in a fire, leaving a mouldering skeleton beneath (when, in fact, there is real flesh and bone). The glued-on hair also lends to a creepy, cadaverous effect. There is a tangible element of satirical humor, as well; from Obama’s Mickey Mouse ears, to fashion icon’s Karl Lagerfeld’s melted face, to the manic smile of a woman on a blind date, Desmeules has done a brilliant job exploring the line between disgust and delight.
Shock and intrigue aside, Desmeules’ choice of “living portraiture” is rife with social commentary. By disfiguring admired cultural icons such as world leaders and celebrities — people who always appear to be perfectly composed — she playfully “dethrones” them, unveiling them in all their flaws and fleshly humanity. As John J. Staughton writes:
“Celebrities are praised for their beauty and perfection, yet that isn’t what makes them so desirable or recognizable, as Desmeules’ work shows. It is actually the very fact of their fame and prominence that draws us to them; they are as grotesque and outside the realm of normalcy as anyone with a humpback or a facial deformity. Our attraction is just as powerful in the opposite direction.” (Source)
As a further comment on standards of beauty and perfection, Desmeules calls her sculptures “surgeries.” Instead of a scalpel, her instruments are her paint brushes and hands, moulding “normal” people into “idolized” figures who end up mutilated by projected aspirations of status and beauty; what was once venerated and desirable becomes ludicrous and revolting. Desmeules’ work is a sobering — and amusing — reminder of the power of the image to influence and deceive. (Via Juxtapoz)