To the Fairest focuses on the experiences of women living in contemporary society. This body of work focuses on the social and societal enforcement of racist, ageist, and misogynist beauty standards. Through a large-scale artist book, screenprints, and needle-felted installation, To the Fairest draws attention to the ways that competition and rivalry are encouraged between women based on Petrarchan ideals of feminine beauty. To the Fairest exposes the ways that our society teaches women that their worth relies on their beauty, as well as the ways our society tells women that other women’s beauty is a threat to their well-being or security. This lends itself to concepts of beauty held from a male perspective; the male gaze. This body of work explores the ways in which men’s objectification, ownership, and entitlement over women has incited tension and competition between women. Through the use of fairytale and installation, this work is interested in the ways that beauty ideals keep women divided and prevent women from banding together to fight oppression as a larger power.

To the Fairest roots this tension and rivalry between women in historical and ancient myth and Eurocentrism. By utilizing the book form and storytelling methods as a didactic tool, this exhibition emphasizes the long history and precedence of oppressive beauty standards, as well as the forced competition between women based on these standards. This body of work addresses the biases contributing to the contemporary beauty standard by abstracting human features onto apples. This exhibition addresses the internalized racism and ageist misogyny that directly contributes to the propagation of Petrarchan beauty ideals by encouraging viewers to question why one apple is more beautiful than another and why they consider these traits beautiful or ugly. This exhibition encourages the audience to interpret facial features independent from a racist and sexist context, reflect and come to the realization that contemporary definitions of beauty and ugliness are reliant on oppressive ideology; specifically anti-Blackness, anti-Semitism, and ageist misogyny.

© 2020 by Ally Messer


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