The beautiful can be ugly for those struggling to meet societal standards misconstrued as norms of beauty. Anikó Sáfrán—in her photographic essay Reflexions, now on display at Art Access II—addresses myths of beauty, examining societal ideals that create universal, unrealistic social expectations. With an inventive and austere photographic approach, using a funhouse mirror and a camera, Sáfrán contorts the body to what she considers equivalent to subjective distorted perceptions and expectations of the beautiful. These societal ideals are “universal and historic and ultimately create conflict with the self-image,” said Sáfrán. Sáfrán’s black-and-white portrait photographs may initially be mistaken for high fashion photography; each model has a unique stylistic individuality and persona. However, a closer reading of the works indicates a weightier significance.
Sáfrán’s technique captures the model’s image, but the funhouse mirror grossly distorts it. An eerie corporeal disfiguring resists any allusion to fashion and ideals of beauty. Ultimately, Sáfrán is contradicting and challenging beauty myths, asking, “How do you see yourself, and how do you think other people see you?”
The artist’s images (“Woman With Red Hair” is pictured) speak to a broad audience living in the perpetual era of idealized beauty. Sáfrán’s manipulated figures mimic how expectations of beauty manipulate the self-image. According to the artist’s statement, she “uses a spectrum that many can relate to and find their own connection with.” Sáfrán further suggests that subjective misconceptions of beauty, contemporaneously and historically, ironically “keep one from creating a meaningful and beautiful reality.”
Anikó Sáfrán: Reflexions @ Art Access II, 230 S. 500 West, 328-0703, through June 12, 2009. AccessArt.org