VOLUME XXXII • NO. 1 • FALL 2009 E d it o r Lauren J. Bryant De s i g ne r Kelly Carnahan A d v i s o r y B oa r d John Carini Associate Professor of Physics IU Bloomington Yaobin Chen Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering IUPUI Claude Cookman Associate Professor of Journalism IU Bloomington Deborah Finkel Professor of Psychology IU Southeast Kirsten Grønbjerg Efroymson Chair in Philanthropy Professor of Public and Environmental Affairs IU Bloomington Michael Kowolik Associate Dean for Graduate Education IU School of Dentistry Shanker Krishnan Associate Professor of Marketing IU Bloomington Arthur Liou Associate Professor of Fine Arts IU Bloomington Portia Maultsby Professor of Folklore and Ethnomusicology IU Bloomington Eric Schoch Science Writer, Office of Public and Media Relations IU School of Medicine Published by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research Sarita Soni Vice Provost for Research Indiana University [ F r o n t co v e r] Untitled noren (partition) by Rowland Ricketts, 60" x 60", photo by Osamu James Nakagawa [ I n s i d e f r o n t co v e r]
Detail of Ancient Time by Marilyn Whitesell, 62" x
22", digital collage Detail of Union Tables by Cory Robinson, 2006, 20"h x 19"w x 18"d each, oak, salvaged white pine, mahogany, brass, branches, paint, and dye
[o p p o s i t e p a g e , t o p ]
ne afternoon late this summer, my sister and I were in the basement of my mother’s house, sorting a half-century of stuff. The tang of mold stung our noses and eyes, so we were moving fast through scattered piles of baby clothes, fabric scraps, old toys, photographs, Christmas ornaments, and endless papers. I unearthed a dirty white case and popped open the lid. My sister and I squealed. Inside, laid out in water-stained pink satin, were our Barbie dolls. We hadn’t seen them in more than 40 years. There were several Barbies, blonde and brunette, including a (now) one-armed “original” from 1959. We found freckled best friend Midge , and yes, even the neutered boyfriend, Ken. I played with Barbie, and I admit, I loved her. I loved her perfectly pouted lips and her tiny waist, her sinuous fingers and impossibly long legs. I envied her lustrous hair and her permanently arched feet sheathed in those tiny spiked heels. I loved her clothes, especially a rose-colored floor-length coat that fastened with a single pearl button and flared into a train. I loved Barbie because I found almost everything about her beautiful. When Barbie turned 50 in March 2009, a stream of commentaries and essays mused on the doll’s international influence over generations of young girls and women, like the two 50-somethings squealing in my mother’s basement. For decades, Barbie has been the face (and body) of gender stereotypes that continue to make women feel inferior, inadequate, and incompetent. In fact, Barbie’s status is such that ruining her appears to have become a rite of passage. In 2005, researchers at the University of Bath found that girls in the 10-to-11-year-old range delighted in mutilating their Barbies in “varied and creative” ways, including decapitation and microwaving. (My sister and I eventually buried a few ourselves.) Barbie seems an apt symbol of our strange relationship with beauty. We revere beauty and revile it, dress it up and strip it down, acquire it and analyze it, play with it and punish it. We are both mesmerized and maddened by the beauty each of us beholds with our own particular eye. Sigmund Freud said, “Beauty has no obvious use; nor is there any clear cultural necessity for it. Yet civilization could not do without it.” Since he wrote that in 1930, I think Freud’s been proven wrong. Today, scientists and theorists are revealing beauty’s functions — biological, cognitive, and cultural. But Freud was right about one thing: There’s no denying beauty’s power. Just ask the woman who saved those Barbies from her mother’s moldy basement. –LB Research & Creative Activity is published by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research. It is intended to stimulate greater awareness of and appreciation for the diverse scholarly and creative activities conducted across the campuses of Indiana University. For permission to reprint material from the magazine or for inquiries regarding its content, please contact the Editor, Research & Creative Activity, Office of the Vice Provost for Research, Indiana University, Franklin Hall 116, 601 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, IN 47405-7000; phone (812) 855-4152; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Research & Creative Activity is a member of the University Research Magazine Association (www.urma.org). All contents Copyright © 2009 The Trustees of Indiana University. Visit research.iu.edu/magazine to read R&CA online.
TABLE OF CONTENTS 2 Abstracts What your mother always told you | ATLAS at CERN | What kind of owner are you? | Birds of a feather flock together â€Ś or not | A magnum opus | Mr. and Mrs. | Out in the country
6 Art that makes you think by Ryan Piurek
10 MAKEOVER NATION by Amy L. Cornell
14 Skin Deep by Eric Schoch
18 RE-VISIONING BEAUTY by Susan Moke
22 textures of nature
29 An orchestration of art by Jennifer Piurek
32 Under the influence by Tracy James
34 the nature of glamour by Jeremy Shere
38 beauty and the bleach by Kay Kenney
40 more than a pretty face by Jeremy Shere
44 ELEMENTS OF STYLE
Rowland Ricketts and Marilyn Whitesell
by Elisabeth Andrews
26 THE art of lakescaping
49 SECOND LOOK
by Lauren J. Bryant
What your mother always told you
hewing gum stays in your stomach for seven years. Cold weather makes you sick. You should never wake a sleepwalker. A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. These and other commonly held beliefs go under the microscope in Don’t Swallow Your Gum! Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health, a new book by physicians Aaron Carroll and Rachel Vreeman, both professors of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. Carroll, who is also director of the IU Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research, and Vreeman have co-authored two studies on medical myths published in the British Medical Journal. “We were shocked at how many people had strong reactions to the beliefs we debunked in the BMJ studies,” says Vreeman. “These myths may be things people have heard since childhood. Some people have a hard time letting these beliefs go.” Don’t Swallow Your Gum! Myths, HalfTruths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health is published by St. Martin’s Press and is available online (www.dontswallowyourgum.com). Here are a few debunked myths that may surprise you: You should drink at least eight glasses of water a day. There is no medical reason or scientific proof for this directive. “In fact, scientific studies suggest that you already get enough liquid from what you’re drinking and eating on a daily basis.” If you shave your hair it will grow
back faster, darker, and thicker. “There are great scientific studies that prove the hair you shave off does not grow back any darker or thicker than it ever was. As early as 1928, a clinical trial demonstrated that shaving had no effect on hair growth. … An optical illusion is to blame. When you slice off the hair with a razor, it leaves a sharp end. Because these shaved hairs lack the tapered look of unshaven hair, it appears that the hair itself is thicker.” Food dropped on the floor is safe to be picked up again if it’s there less than five seconds. “Bacteria that can make you sick can survive on the floor or other surfaces for a long time, and they can contaminate other foods that touch them for only a few seconds.” For example, food scientists have found that when a piece of bologna hits a tile floor, more than 99 percent of the bacterial cells transferred from the tile to the sandwich meat after just five seconds. You lose most of your body heat through your head. “If this was true, we could walk around in the cold in just a hat and no pants. … This myth likely originated with a military study from 50 years ago when scientists put subjects in arctic survival suits (but no hats) and measured their heat loss in extremely cold temperatures. Since the only part of their bodies that was exposed to the cold were their heads, that’s the part from which they lost the most heat. … A more recent study from the army research environ-
mental lab confirms that there is nothing special about the head and heat loss—any part of the body that is left uncovered loses heat.” Eat your spinach to grow strong like Popeye. “In 1870, Dr. E. von Wolf … accidentally reported that the iron content of spinach was 10 times higher than the real amount. It was probably because of these mistaken findings that Popeye’s miracle food in the 1930s was spinach. … Yes, for a vegetable, spinach is a relatively good source of iron. … However, the body has harder time using non-heme iron, the type of iron found in spinach. … Spinach is a great vegetable; it just doesn’t deserve any extra credit for its iron content.”
ore than a dozen scientists in the Indiana University Bloomington Experimental High Energy Physics program are working on the ATLAS experiment taking place at CERN, the world’s leading laboratory for particle physics with headquarters in Geneva. IUB’s High Energy group has had a leading role in building the Transition Radiation Tracker for the ATLAS detector, which will begin collecting data after the Large Hadron Collider at CERN starts collding beams this fall. Scientists around the world believe new discoveries about the fundamental nature of matter may result from experiments at the LHC. [ f a r r i g h t ] The completed TRT barrel is ready for cosmic tests in its final position in the ATLAS detector. [l o w e r r i g h t ] In this simulation of a black hole in the ATLAS detector, the tracks would be produced if a miniature black hole was created in a proton-proton collision.
Photos courtesy The ATLAS Experiment at CERN, http://www.atlas.ch/
Birds of a feather flock together … or not
rom Michael Vick to the cat lady next door, people differ widely in their behavior toward the pets they own. But why? Indiana University South Bend assistant professor and cultural sociologist David Blouin conducted in-depth interviews with Midwestern dog owners to find out. In research presented at the American Sociological Association meeting in August, Blouin says he wanted to “make sense of the variations in how dog owners socially construct, relate to, interact with, and treat their animals. “Numerous cultural scripts for understanding and relating to animals are acted out between people and their dogs every day,” he writes in his study. “And each is sociologically interesting because of what it has to say about how people live and interact with animals as well as the relationship between culture, attitudes, and action.” Blouin classifies owner-behavior into three types — humanist, dominionist, and protectionist. Humanist owners think of their dogs as their children, sometimes dressing them in miniature clothing and accessories. They cherish their pets (but usually their own pets only) for the entertainment and affection the animals provide. “They’re our kids, and I treat them like family, protect them like family. Everything I do that I would for a child, I would do for them,” says one dog owner interviewed by Blouin. Dominionists, on the other hand, have little attachment to their animals. Instead, they view them in terms of the uses the pets serve, such as hunting or protection. “When I was growing up on a farm, animals were utilitarian,” the owner of two farm dogs told Blouin. “They have a use, you know, you eat cows, you ride horses. So animals or dogs have their place, and that’s how I relate to them.” Protectionists form intense emotional bonds with their pets, whom they consider “best friends.” In the protectionist orientation, animals are not surrogate persons, however, but have an inherent status and value all their own. Passionate adopters and rescuers of animals, protectionists think of themselves as their pets’ stewards, not parents. Blouin argues that our orientations toward dogs, and other pets, are determined by multiple factors, from family structure to cultural norms. Personal experiences with animals, particularly during childhood, affect how we relate to our future pets. So do demographic characteristics such as race, class, gender, and whether there are human children in the house. “The presence of young children diminishes the status of dogs,” says Blouin. Broader cultural influences also distinctly affect how we treat our pets. The dominionist orientation is connected to the Judeo-Christian point of view, which invokes human dominion over nature. Humanist orientations relate to a sentimental view of pets that has roots in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when the rise of reason and scientific views made nature seem less threatening. Protectionist points of view are rooted in the modern animal rights movement that began in England and the United States in the late 1800s. While Blouin recognizes that animal owners do not fall neatly into one or the other group, he argues that it’s important to examine how our treatment of animals is part of culture and changes over time. “People don’t usually make this stuff up themselves,” Blouin says. “They learn how animals should be treated.”
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Photo by Graeme S. Chapman
What kind of owner are you?
hat can bird brains tell us about being social? A lot, according to neurobiologists at Indiana University Bloomington who study social behavior systems in the brain. In a recent report published in the journal Science, lead author James Goodson and colleagues showed that if the actions of the neurochemical mesotocin are blocked in the brains of zebra finches, a highly social songbird, the birds shift their social preferences. They spend significantly less time with familiar individuals and more time with unfamiliar individuals. The birds also spend less time with a large group of same-sex birds and more time with a smaller group. But, if the birds are administered mesotocin instead of the blocker, the finches become more social and prefer familiar partners. Perhaps most striking is the fact that none of the treatments affect males — only females. According to Goodson, who joined the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biology in 2007, sex differences in birds provide important clues to the evolutionary history of oxytocin functions in humans and other mammals. “Oxytocin is an evolutionary descendant of mesotocin and has long been associated with female reproductive functions such as pair bonding with males, giving birth, providing maternal care, and ejecting milk for infants,” says Goodson. Goodson speculates that oxytocin-like neuropeptides have played special roles in female affiliation ever since the peptides first evolved. That was sometime around 450 million years ago. But if all vertebrates possess similar neuropeptide circuits, why don’t they all live in big flocks or herds? The second part of the Science study provided a possible answer to that question. The authors speculated that the behavioral actions of mesotocin may differ across species depending on the distribution of “receptors” for
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Photo by Ivona Hedin
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Photos courtesy of the IU Jacobs School of Music
the chemical in the brain — that is, places where mesotocin can attach to brain cells and alter their activity. Using a radioactive compound that attaches to oxytocin-like receptors, the researchers mapped the distribution of receptors in three finch species that form flocks and two species that are territorial and highly aggressive. What they found was that the flocking species had many more receptors in a part of the brain known as the lateral septum. And when those receptors were blocked in female zebra finches, the birds became less social. According to Goodson, these findings suggest that it is actually the concentration and location of receptors that determine whether an individual prefers spending time in large groups. If Goodson’s discovery holds true for other birds and even mammals, the concentration of receptors for mesotocin (and oxytocin) in the lateral septum could accurately predict whether an individual is naturally gregarious. “The lateral septum is structurally very similar in reptiles, birds, and mammals,” Goodson says. “To our knowledge, it plays an important role in the social and reproductive behaviors of all land vertebrates. “We still don’t understand why mesotocin and oxytocin are so potent in females, but not always in males,” Goodson continues. “And we also don’t fully understand how the lateral septum functions to influence sociality.” But he is convinced that his group’s ongoing studies of songbirds will soon provide the answers. Postdoctoral fellow David Kabelik, research associate Sara Schrock, and Ph.D. student James Klatt also contributed to the research, which was funded with a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Workers install the Opus 135 organ in Auer Concert Hall at the IU Jacobs School of Music. [ b o t t om Installation of one of the organ’s keyboards. [ b o t t om ri g h t ] Detail of the organ’s Kowalyshyn Servopneumatic Lever, which provides a pneumatic assist to the keyboard when using multiple sets of pipes. [ top]
A magnum opus
n June 2009, the Opus 135 organ, made by C.B. Fisk Inc., of Gloucester, Mass., arrived on the Indiana University Bloomington campus to be installed at the Jacobs School of Music. Organ students and faculty from the Jacobs School along with employees of C.B. Fisk spent two days moving parts of the 3,945-pipe organ into Auer Concert Hall. Assembly and tuning of the organ’s various pieces will likely continue until the debut of the organ in fall 2010. Named after donors Maidee H. and Jackson A. Seward, the organ’s debut performance will mark 100 years since the Indiana University Department of Music was first established. The organ has been a long time coming. Installation of an organ in Auer Hall began in the early 1990s, but the project stalled. The Jacobs School contracted with C.B. Fisk in 2007 to complete the organ.
Mr. and Mrs. e may be in the 21st century, where gender-neutral language is widely accepted, but one form of gender-specific language remains firmly entrenched — a woman’s adoption of a man’s surname when they marry. Despite the gains women have made since the 1970s in the workplace and other areas of American society, 71 percent of respondents in a recent national survey agreed it is better for women to change their names upon marriage, with only 29 percent disagreeing (just 11 percent strongly disagreed). Surprisingly, respondents split fairly evenly in their support of government regulation requiring a name change. Researchers from Indiana University and University of Utah say these findings come despite American society’s clear shift to more gender-neutral language. The survey tapped 815 people and asked both multiple choice and open-ended questions. It was part of a larger survey probing
public opinion on a range of gender- and family-related topics. Laura Hamilton, a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology, College of Arts and Sciences, IU Bloomington, presented findings from the study “Mapping Gender Ideology with Views toward Marital Name Change” at the American Sociological Association annual meeting in August. “The figures were a bit sobering for us because there seems to be change in so many [other] areas. If names are a core aspect of our identity, this is important,” says Brian Powell, professor of sociology at IU Bloomington and one of the study’s co-authors. “There are all these reports and indicators that families are changing, that men are contributing more, that we’re moving toward a more equal family, yet there’s no indication that we’re seeing a similar move to equality when it comes to names.” Almost half the people surveyed said it
would be “OK” for a man to change his name to that of his wife, but male name change seemed so implausible to respondents that they off-handedly agreed it would be OK. For example, Powell says, one man laughed as he responded: “Sure, why not. Hey, in America, anything goes!” Others said it was OK because “a man should be able to do it because he’s a man.” Advocates of women changing their names emphasize family and marital identity for women, indicating that a single family name makes more sense from a societal point of view. They invoke religion and tradition as authoritative reasons for women to change their names. Name-change critics focus on the importance of women preserving independent identities and the ways they benefit by keeping their own name. They also think the choice should be left up to women.
Out in the country “The rur al United States oper ates a s A meric a’s perennial, tacitly taken-for-gr anted closet.”
hat’s one of Mary Gray’s observations of small-town America in her new book, Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America (NYU Press, 2009). A former queer-youth activist born in California’s agrarian Central Valley, Gray is now an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Culture, College of Arts and Sciences, at Indiana University Bloomington, where she studies the relationship between uses of media and queer social action. She spent 19 months traveling more than 40,000 miles along the backroads of rural Kentucky to gather information for her book, which is the first ethnographic study to focus specifically on queer rural life in the United States. Gray says she gathered her information through informal conversations, extensive interviews, and “tagging along to see what I might see out in the country.” What she saw were young people figuring out how to lay claim to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual identities in places where “the operative assumption is that one has never met a stranger.” While gay visibility in the media has exploded over the last decade, those depictions are largely cosmopolitan and city-based. Even LGBT organizers and movements share the bias that big cities are the only place to effect change. “Many of the youth I met struggled with reconciling the deep connection or pride they feel for their hometowns with the popular representation of their communities as backward, ignorant, and unlivable,” Gray said in a September online interview about her book in WireTap Magazine (wiretapmag.com). “They feel they’re not supposed to see their communities as viable options and are being told they need to choose between being queerly out of place in the country and moving to a big city to find legitimate visibility.” Gay youth in rural America find it particularly difficult to recognize themselves in the “metrocentric” popular culture seen on TV and in movies. Instead, Gray found, they turn to peers, local resources (such as their schools), and, especially, the Internet to help them come to terms with their sexual identity and a rural lifestyle, using new media to find people like them. “They were looking for representations that talked about living out in the country,” Gray says. “It validated the possibility of living in a rural community. There are quite literally youth who would show these coming-out stories to their family and friends, saying ‘There are kids like me living in places like this.’” Although Gray conducted her research between 2001 and 2004, before the rapid growth of social media, she is using new media to construct “part 2” of her work. In July, she started the blog Queer Country (http://queercountry.fromthesquare.org) “to create a space for rural queer and questioning youth to share their stories with each other and those who value their take on life out in the country.”
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Art that makes you think by Ryan Piurek
[o p p osi t e p a g e ] M ontol peoples, Nigeria,
Female Figure, ca. 1950, Indiana University Art Museum, Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection Masquerade dancer Sidi Ballo performing in 1978
[ far ri g h t ] Sidi Ballo dancing in his upside down bird masquerade, 1978
amazing control as he shakes and jerks his costume, sometimes pitching it so hard to the side that it seems like it will fall over. But of course it never does — that’s all part of the act. A few hours later, though, the bird actually does fall over on its side. A hush comes over the crowd. It is no secret that masquerade dance is fraught with hazards — the costume’s tightly wound wooden scaffolding may break and spring apart, puncturing the unlucky dancer inside. Instead, something truly spectacular happens. First, the bird’s head goes up “like a periscope,” according to McNaughton. Then, from inside the costume in a squatting position, the masquerader turns the costume upside down, so that it is now bottom up. The bird’s head remains properly oriented, even though the costume is now inverted. It’s at this moment that McNaughton realizes, to his “absolute astonishment,” that the masquerader is actually dancing inside the inverted masquerade.
Photos courtesy of Patrick McNaughton
he village of Dogoduman (a.k.a. “Sweet Little City”), in Mali, West Africa, June 1978. At a performance organized by the town elders and youth association, the masquerader — hidden within an enormous bird costume — enters the dance area. Inside the huge bird, wearing baggy shorts and various amulets around his neck, is the virtuoso masquerade dancer Sidi Ballo, who has readied himself for this moment the way a boxer would prepare for a championship fight, a swimmer for an Olympic meet, or a singer for her Metropolitan Opera debut. The drumming and singing heralding the performance pick up in speed and intensity, and there is a palpable sense of tension and excitement in the hot evening air. Finally, “the bird,” or “Kònò” as it is known, rushes out “in an awesome gust of movement,” according to Patrick McNaughton, who, by “pure luck,” has been invited to the performance. McNaughton is completely taken aback by the bird dance, astounded by the stamina of the masquerader, the precision of his movement, his
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Photo by Mike Cavanaugh and Keviin Montague, IU Art Museum
Years later, McNaughton, who is Chancellor’s Professor of African Art History in the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, still marvels at the almost magical feat. “No part of the dancer’s body is directly touching ground. There is the cloth of the masquerade between his feet and the earth. And yet he is dancing,” McNaughton writes. “In fact, he is moving about quite beautifully, as if to suggest the happy intervention of powers beyond the ordinary. I am in awe.”
An aesthetic milieu The awe-inspiring dance at Dogoduman is the subject of McNaughton’s recently published book, A Bird Dance Near Saturday City (IU Press, 2008). The dance forever transformed the way McNaughton thinks about the nature of art, beauty, and aesthetics, and their relationship with society. Presently chairperson of Department of the History of Art in IUB’s College of Arts and Sciences, McNaughton says he arrived at his own perspective on these subjects only after years of thinking about Sidi Ballo and his performance. The performance, McNaughton says repeatedly, was “galvanizing.” In his book’s introduction, McNaughton writes that the performance caused him to “grapple with the social, spiritual, and aesthetic power that good art carries into people, and with the qualities and capabilities of individuals that make them distinctive in life and art, no matter how intertwined they are with the social world that fuels them. It made me think about how the differences between people contribute to the construction of meaning and value, and how the strategic use of aesthetics affects people in ways that can be profound.” After years of reflection, McNaughton is convinced that aesthetics — or, more specifically, Sidi Ballo’s focused attention on aesthetics as part of his “performance persona”— made the dance the spectacular and deeply moving event that it was. Ballo’s “aesthetic milieu,” McNaughton says, came as no accident. From the way he walked (“with a lilt to his step and an almost poetic way that he held his body”) and talked (“his intonations and phrases”) to the way he laughed to the way he moved inside the masquerade costume, Ballo was gracefulness and elegance personified. Those qualities, though, masked a remarkable intensity that drove him to conduct such incredible, often dangerous, dance maneuvers, while overcoming such performance-affecting factors as heat, exhaustion, and age. (Ballo had already been dancing for 17 years before the performance at Dogoduman.) When McNaughton returned to visit Ball0 in 1998, 20 years after seeing him perform for the first time, the dancer was still “fit as a fiddle,” despite “smoking like a fiend.” He still danced, though not as frequently (now he performs just once a year) and with a heavier, wider-at-the-base costume designed to keep him from tripping. If Ballo had lost a step, it wasn’t clearly evident. “In 1998, he was 58 years old, exactly the same age as me, and he walked down the street as if there were no such thing as
gravity,” McNaughton says. “And he said to me, ‘Patrice, I can’t dance anymore. I’m too old. I’m too old. I should be farming instead. Farming is much easier.’ Here he was talking about farming, where you’re bent over eight hours a day! But then he put on a performance for me and a friend and, oh man, could he still dance!” blacksmiths’ power, aesthetics reassessed Art historians have not always appreciated—or even realized— the aesthetic sophistication of African art, music, and dance such as that performed by Sidi Ballo, McNaughton explains. During the 1950s, when African art history first started as a serious discipline, and through the next two decades, most art historians described the continent’s art as functional or utilitarian and felt little need to examine it in terms of beauty, form, and sophistication. In the early days of African art history, there were notable exceptions, individuals who urged their peers to reconsider the nature of aesthetics in African art as well as in society. Among them was McNaughton’s advisor at Yale University, Robert Farris Thompson, who is one of the nation’s leading scholars of African art and has devoted much of his life to the serious study of art in the Afro-Atlantic world. Thompson “believed in the value of aesthetics right from the start,” McNaughton says. “He had this very clear vision of how African art was intellectual and so very provocative in terms of the ideas it challenges you with, from being delicate and gentle to in-your-face. He was a pioneer.” Although primed to take aesthetics in African art seriously, McNaughton needed to experience the art firsthand before coming to his own realizations. This desire to see and feel for himself led him to study the art of sub-Saharan Africa and, particularly, the arts of Mande-speaking people in West Africa. When he lucked into the Sidi Ballo performance, McNaughton was actually in Mali conducting research on Mande-speaking blacksmiths for his eventual book (The Mande Blacksmiths: Knowledge, Power and Art in Western Africa, IU Press, 1988). With a history probably dating back to before the time of Christ, blacksmiths in West Africa are renowned for their sophisticated iron-working skills, consummate craftsmanship, and technological acumen, McNaughton says. They begin training at a very early age with relatives or other blacksmiths so that by adulthood they have mastered the techniques of being a blacksmith. Their immense skill places Mande blacksmiths in high social regard. They also are believed to possess extraordinary amounts of a Jedi-like force, nyama, which gives them special power in their communities. Blacksmiths are considered to be born with nyama that they manipulate to the benefit of other community members and themselves, McNaughton explains. “It’s part of their heritage, and it’s one reason they have so much clout and authority.” Indeed, blacksmiths are often called upon by community members and leaders to act as advisors or negotiators,
Patrick McNaughton, Chancellor’s Professor of African Art in the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, visits with Sidi Ballo, virtuoso bird dancer, and his twin daughters, in 1998. McNaughton first witnessed Ballo’s bird dance masquerade in the small town of Dogoduman in 1978. In 2008, McNaughton’s book about the dance’s artistic power, A Bird Dance near Saturday City, was published by Indiana University Press. In the book, the performance of Sidi Ballo is McNaughton’s vehicle for understanding the power of aesthetics as a cultural phenomenon.
considered this way, aesthetics are inseparable from the idea of strategy. Sidi Ballo strategically used aesthetics—the beauty of his masquerade costume and the quality of his dancing — to his advantage. This dedication to aesthetics—along with his finely honed athletic prowess, experience, improvisational acumen, ability to play off an audience, and, as McNaughton likes to say, “sorcery”—created a performance of overwhelming potency. “Aesthetics are a deep-seated and profoundly effective social tool,” McNaughton says. “When people know how to make things that have affect, they know how to really get to you. And once you’re in that state, then you’re more inclined to think, to be reflective. “Art is infinitely more than entertainment,” he continues. “It’s a forum for you to think about who you are, what your society is, how you fit with your society, and how it is that you can fit within your society. I see art as a laboratory for growth. And aesthetics are a big part of what makes that laboratory effective. You can look at a piece of art that’s not very good and won’t give it a second thought. At the same time, you can look at something spectacular and really start to think.” Ryan Piurek is assistant director of Indiana University Communications and a freelance writer in Bloomington, Ind.
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sorcery at work During his exhausting and difficult bird dance at Dogoduman, Sidi Ballo hits a wall—literally. In a high-speed maneuver, one that comes with scant warning for the audience, the bird flies through the air and crashes into the wall of a house. Remarkably, as if by magic, the bird holds its horizontal position, seemingly levitating on the wall, just long enough to cause the audience to hold its collective breath and wonder how a masquerade dancer could possibly hover in mid-air. To add even more intrigue, the bird’s head comes out and looks around quizzically, as if he were wondering the same thing as the audience. For McNaughton, such stunning and dramatic moments occur when an artist incorporates all the resources at his or her disposal to create art that garners intellectual and emotional attention. Chief among those resources, he says, are aesthetics. In McNaughton’s view, aesthetics are all about choices—the essentially calculated choices that an artist makes to deliver the most effective and efficient performance. As IU colleague Daniel Reed, an associate professor of folklore and ethnomusicology, says in his book Dan Ge Performance: Masks and Music in Contemporary Côte d’Ivoire (IU Press, 2003), “Patrick McNaughton argues that aesthetics are ‘strategies for organizing the resources that become form.’” Reed goes on to say that,
Photo courtesy of Patrick McNaughton
McNaughton says. He recalls a time a blacksmith was summoned by a woman who wanted a divorce from her husband. The woman thought her family probably wouldn’t approve of the divorce, so she turned to the blacksmith to help convince her parents. In the end, she got the divorce. Added together, their energy, expertise, and experience make blacksmiths powerful players in the region and central to the concepts, institutions, and beliefs that permeate Mande society, McNaughton says. Not surprisingly, it also makes their art—and art across so many cultures in Africa—amazingly effective. To illustrate his point, McNaughton points to a poster that graces the wall of his African-themed office in the Fine Arts Building at IU Bloomington. The poster is from a past exhibition at the IU Art Museum and features a photograph of a Nigerian wood sculpture. The sculpture depicts a female figure with broad shoulders and clenched fists. The woman tilts backward, almost like a soccer player about to head the ball into the goal. “Look at that,” McNaughton says. “Look at the proportions, the shoulders, the breasts, the head. How she is leaning back and arching, like there’s all this pent-up energy. Good god, that is sophisticated! That’s hot stuff, and not accidental. That’s someone who was really thinking. “This art is just spectacular,” McNaughton continues. “It’s loaded with aesthetic sophistication, and that’s something that, for a very long time, was ignored by African art historians.”
Image courtesy Brenda Weber.
[OPPOSITE PAGE] NBC’s Biggest Loser casting call in Philadelphia, July 2009. [LEFT] OK! magazine cover, April 20, 2009.
Photo courtesy of 97.5 WNUW, Greater Media Philadelphia, Inc., http://nowismusic.com/
akeover television shows, broadcast daily on many stations and in many nations, are fairy tales for the new millennium. Producers introduce a “before” body, a Cinderella-figure like the fat woman or the run-down house or the broken marriage. Fairy godmothers, in the form of the makeover shows’ style gurus, plastic surgeons, and interior designers, take Cinderella away and transform her. A fairy godmother fixes up the old house or gives Cinderella a new body or better style and then presents the end result at a big fancy ball. Everyone attends the ball (the “big reveal”) and marvels. Everyone lives happily ever after on makeover shows. Brenda R. Weber, assistant professor in the College of Arts and Science’s Department of Gender Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, points out that 21st-century makeover shows are really the oldest stories we know. “The resurrection is a makeover story,” Weber says. “Ovid tells stories about transformation and change. Pygmalion is a makeover story. We have been telling makeover stories since 5000 B.C.”
Not-so candid camera Makeover shows run the gamut from simple style do-overs and light cosmetic procedures to major reconstructive or gastric bypass surgeries to programs that beautify homes, cars, and rooms. Producers have taken the makeover show still further to give us lifestyle, marriage, and financial makeovers, as well as shows that make over dogs and teach us how to keep our homes safe and secure. Weber’s initial interest in the makeover show phenomenon
was sparked by conversations with students in an introductory class at IU on Gender and Popular Culture. Those conversations prompted her to write a paper on the topic of the ABC show Extreme Makeover, where participants undergo major reconstructive surgery to change their looks. That article, which Weber presented at the 2005 meeting of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies and published in Genders, led to an invitation to a plastic surgery symposium in Montreal, Canada. Among bio-ethicists, anthropologists, and social scientists, Weber was the only media scholar invited to discuss the recent proliferation of televised plastic surgery in the United States and Canada. This year, Weber’s work on makeover shows was published in her new book Makeover TV: Self hood, Citizenship, and Celebrity (Duke University Press, 2009). Early in her research, Weber realized that plastic surgery on television was only the surface of a major cultural phenomenon. Although she was already at work on a book called Women and Literary Celebrity in the Nineteenth Century (forthcoming, Ashgate Series in Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic Studies), she began to watch and make notes on televised makeover programs. Weber estimates she has watched more than 2,500 hours of makeover television. “It’s all about the [camera’s] gaze,” Weber says. She recounts the plot of a show called It Takes a Thief in which a family, under the watch of 25 surveillance cameras, is robbed. “They break into your house and steal a bunch of junk and record everything they are doing. Then the family comes home and surprise, you’ve been robbed. Then [the experts] debrief the family and show them everything they need to do to be safe.”
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by Amy L. Cornell
Ugly Betty and Susan Boyle Among Weber’s favorite makeover shows is Pimp My Ride on MTV where mechanics makeover a beat-up car. With studs in their mouths and crazy-looking hair and tattoos, these mechanics hardly look like fairy godmothers, but the format is all Cinderella story. “[The camera] surveys the ‘before’ car body so [the viewer] can say, ‘This is a piece of crap! Why have you been driving this around?’” explains Weber. “The car is in such bad shape you can’t use the doors to get in, or you need a screwdriver to start it. Then they take the car away, which provides a mandatory ‘quarantine’ where the transforming body is not allowed to associate with the larger populace.” Weber likens this quarantine time in the makeover narrative to an immigrant coming to America. In the early part of the 20th century, authorities restricted new arrivals to Ellis Island until they were deemed safe to be a part of the larger society. Weber sees connections to what she calls “the symbolic spaces of ‘Makeover Nation.’” A metaphorical quarantine happens for the subject about to be transformed on makeover shows — the car, the person, or the house. In Weber’s analysis, this symbolic quarantine occurs because of a sense that the not-yet-madeover bodies are not appropriately equipped, which often means visually attractive enough, to circulate within the larger population. Weber has examined many instances of “Makeover Nation” in U.S. popular culture. The ABC show called Ugly Betty, a story about an ugly young woman who overcomes prejudice about her looks to be successful in the fashion industry, gets top ratings. Recent YouTube phenomenon Susan Boyle wowed the judges in the Britain’s Got Talent reality show, but in spite of her stunning voice, she was constantly told she needed a makeover. Weber is excited about a new article she has started concerning Susan Boyle. “When you are plain, you are more authentic. People believe you,” Weber says. “So Susan Boyle became this really authen-
tic, really believable performer, and somehow her plainness is meant to suggest she’s not affected or artificial. This belief seems to extend to her voice, but clearly her voice has been trained. She had an album 10 years ago. [Her act] is not without premeditation.” Weber notes that the phenomenon of Susan Boyle is especially interesting because it contradicts the underlying message of makeover shows. Susan Boyle became instantly famous because she did not seem affected, she seemed real. On the other hand, the message of makeover shows is that you need to plan out your style, your looks, your home. You need to project the image that the culture wants you to project, but you participate in this process to reveal the “real” you. So, the more you tinker with your “natural” self, the more you achieve “authentic” self. It doesn’t make sense, but part of what Weber argues is that makeover stories are irrational and work against each other in ways that often don’t make sense. For instance, a makeover story may say that to be empowered you have to give up autonomy, or, that by standing in your underwear on national TV, you’ll get the respect you deserve. In Weber’s eyes, these contradictions, and the ideological complexity that underlies them, make makeover shows a rich source for scholarly analysis. Reality identity The message of all makeover shows seems to be this: beauty equals identity. “Makeover shows and the Susan Boyle phenomenon and the popularity of Ugly Betty reinforce the notion that appearance matters, appearance matters, appearance matters,” Weber says. The idea is, regardless of our race, class, or sexuality, if television is so focused on what is supposed to be the “safest” position to occupy — that of the white middle-class beautiful person — then we’ve all got something to worry about. Trying to adhere to such norms of looks and style demands our constant attention and energy, pushing other concerns to the margins. (How can we focus on making a better planet when we’re preoccupied with bad hair, crow’s feet, and cellulite?) Weber points out that makeover shows also underscore traditional gender roles. “When men go through the makeover, the show’s structure gives them a lot more narrative resistance than women. For example, when women are going to get a makeover, they say, ‘Yeah!’ and men will say, ‘Really, I need one?’ When the style agents say to women (about their clothing), ‘This is ugly, you look like a whore,’ the women will just sort of crumble, whereas men will say, ‘I’ll be the judge of that. I am not so sure I agree with you.’” Weber believes these ideologies of class and gender pervade the way makeover shows are edited. Producers make decisions about how they want men and women to look, and they shape the “reality” of the participants’ stories. In makeover TV stories, women capitulate faster, and their stories reinforce the fairy-tale narrative of the makeover more strongly than the men’s stories do. On Extreme Makeover, for example, after all
Photo by Chelsea Sanders
Makeover shows are all about the camera keeping tabs on citizens, who in turn begin to anticipate the camera’s eye and modify their behavior accordingly. The TV camera becomes a symbol of the wider culture. Makeover TV participants begin to think, What does the camera, or the culture of viewers, want to see? In this regard, makeover shows function in the same way fairy tales do, to reinforce cultural expectations. The cultural messages enshrined in makeover shows now reach far beyond U.S. borders. When Weber first started teaching about makeover shows, there were fewer than 25 shows airing on U.S. television compared with a current estimate of more than 250. Changes in how media is broadcast and distributed means it is now possible for small production companies to be located anywhere, make several reality TV shows, and sell them globally. The United States produces a huge amount of the world’s makeover television content and exports it, and the ideology and values that go with it, all over the world.
the plastic surgery and new clothes and makeup, the women always get taken to their big reveal in a horse-drawn carriage or a limousine. Men drive themselves in sports cars, underscoring that men, especially made-over men, have agency and power. On the Fox TV show The Swan, where only women go through the makeover process, producers bring in personal trainers, dentists, life coaches, therapists, and cosmetic surgeons to completely transform the individual. Each woman is sequestered from her family for three months and not allowed to see herself. (All mirrors are removed.) Each week, two women compete against one another, then the winners of those weekly competitions go on to a final beauty contest where they compete to see who becomes The Swan. In a recent article published in Genders, Weber and coauthor Karen Tice, from University of Kentucky, argue that a religious narrative of shame, confession, surrender, and salvation runs through The Swan. The woman comes into the show as a humiliated body, miserable and embarrassed. Once she has confessed her shame, she goes through a process of surrender and sublimation of the ego, like a sinner seeking absolution, or the “ugly duckling” in the story from which The Swan gets its name. When the body is transformed into a beauty, salvation follows. The writers and producers of The Swan even use the word “resurrection” as the woman and her body are born again. Weber argues that the impact of makeover shows is not only in the individual “resurrection” stories told, but in the
“mass of stories congealing around what’s at stake in terms of our identity,” she says. “It’s a very post-2001 thing. We could argue that particularly within a U.S. context, this [makeover obsession] may be in response to 9/11. Some sociologists argue that when our national borders are made vulnerable and the social body is threatened, we think about the individual body.” For all of the gender stereotypes running amok in makeover TV, Weber also believes that it is important not to discount the shows as completely sexist. When a woman begins to occupy a new, transformed body, she potentially gains selfconfidence and empowerment. Some of what the “Makeover Nation” offers is valuable, Weber notes. Following the recent publication of her book, Weber’s analysis of makeover television is turning to what happens after these 21st century fairy tales end. The Indianapolis Star newspaper recently published an article about the number of foreclosures among recipients of made-over houses in Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Suddenly, each home is worth more money and taxes go way up and the owners can’t pay. Or marriages fail because a partner can’t handle a spouse’s new sex appeal and self-confidence. Weber has plans to interview past participants and talk to them about what happens after happily ever after. Stay tuned. Amy L. Cornell works for the Department of Communication and Culture in the College of Arts & Sciences at IU Bloomington and writes whenever she has the opportunity.
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Brenda Weber is an assistant professor in the College of Arts and Science’s Department of Gender Studies at Indiana University Bloomington.
Indiana University 14
by Eric Schoch
[ left ] Radhika Parameswaran is an associate professor in the School of Journalism at Indiana University Bloomington.
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Photo by Chelsea Sanders
he decision by organizers to hold the November 1996 Miss World beauty pageant in Bangalore, India, lit a firestorm of activity. Supporters and promoters were pitted against opponents who deployed a diverse array of protest tactics ranging from pamphleteering and marching to vandalism and even threats of selfimmolation. The controversy was viewed with a mixture of surprise and disdain by media in the West, where such contests had been declining in popularity and credibility, increasingly viewed as anachronisms in an era of more substantive achievement by women. For many in the West, these outdated beauty contests were no longer really worthy of the Indian protesters’ energetic and dramatic public campaigns, efforts that seemed, to some, stereotypically “Third World.” On the ground in Bangalore and across the nation, the view was much different. For organizers and supporters, successfully hosting the Miss World contest, a multimillion-dollar event broadcast internationally, would make an important statement about India’s emergence as a modern global state, both economically and culturally. With the glamour and the glitter, with the marketing tie-ins and celebrity flyins, India would be announcing to the world that it was anything but Third World. This international cultural ritual of economic modernization collided with a broad range of opponents, whose objections varied from feminists’ concerns about sexism to anti-poverty and socialist opponents of globalization to right-wing defenders of traditional Indian cultural and religious values. Watching all this from afar in 1996 was Radhika Parameswaran, then a doctoral student at the University of Iowa. She was fascinated both by the energy of the Indian supporters and opponents and by the detached amusement in much of the Western media at what seemed to be an overwrought and carnivalesque Third World response. For Parameswaran, an associate professor of journalism who joined the Indiana University Bloomington faculty in 1997, this was serious business. A native of Hyderabad, India, Parameswaran’s journalism and public relations work there led to American academia and a doctorate in mass communications at the University of Iowa, where she pursued her interests in gender, race, media, and modernization at the intersection of Indian and Western cultures. One of her early research projects, for example, explored the popularity of romance novels among young middle-class Indian women — how their fascination with the fictional love lives of beautiful young white women was embedded in the legacies of India’s colonial history, the global marketing of paperback romances, and Indian nationalism’s gendered scripts of sexuality. The controversy over the Miss World pageant helped further direct Parameswaran’s research program, provoking her curiosity about beauty and its manifestations and representations in the media, both in India and beyond. “I’m interested in femininity, nationalism, globalization, and South Asia. Beauty becomes, ironically, a very beautiful port of entry to access recent developments and historical shifts in each of these areas,” she says in her Ernie Pyle Hall office. As a media and cultural studies researcher, she explores how all those subjects are presented,
Photo by Chelsea Sanders
or represented, in the media. Without the media, after all, it’s doubtful that commercial beauty pageants would even exist, she notes. And without her prior research on beauty pageants, Parameswaran might not be exploring her current interest in the aggressive promotion of light-skinned beauty in media, advertising, and cosmetics culture in India and beyond, a beauty norm fostered by a global skin-whitening industry. Advertising that likely would stir loud protest in the United States, and with which many Americans may not be familiar, can be easily found on YouTube.com by searching product names such as “Fair & Lovely.” In one video segment, a young woman accompanied by her father is turned away at a business. Angered, he consults ancient texts that morph into flowers and other delights being mixed into a cream — Fair & Lovely cream. The young woman’s face, suitably lightened in stages, is her ticket to romance and a glamorous career. The commercial spot concludes with her descending from a passenger jet, greeted by a phalanx of photographers. The targets for these ads are not only women. Another spot features a young actor whose career is limited to anonymous stunts until he realizes the benefits of “Fair & Lovely Menz Active,” enabling him to catch the eye of the director and, eventually, the adoring crowds along the red carpet. Nonetheless, most such advertising is targeted at women, and it appears to support sales of products. Parameswaran cites marketing research reporting that skin-lightening offerings have become the most popular of beauty products in a fastgrowing market worth more than $300 million in 2007. It’s a phenomenon, Parameswaran says, that arises from a network of forces: histories of imperialism, culture and caste, region and religion, international travel, and media consumption. “Generations of women in India, including my mother and grandmother, have grown up with the idea that light skin color is beautiful,” Parameswaran says. “Certainly I heard it growing up again and again and again: To be light-skinned is to be beautiful. So I would argue that the preference for light skin color was in the culture at large prior to the frenzy for skin-lightening products — but to pinpoint cultural origins is difficult.” References to family and friends are an integral part of Parameswaran’s scholarship. She describes herself as a qualitative scholar, building on fieldwork she conducts during her annual trips of two months or so back to India. She interviews consumers, marketers, poor women, professionals, and workers in service industries, academics, and students. She collects pamphlets, posters, even point-of-purchase displays, and takes pictures of street vendors and their wares. “I use an anthropological model for my work,” she said. “I need to know what’s going on in a holistic way on the ground.” There are benefits to studying her native land from the
vantage point of American academia, in particular the greater resources it offers — from computers and easy access to online sources to books on cultural issues in other Asian nations that are more easily available in the United States than in India. Even more significant, perhaps, is the support for humanities research in an area that seems frivolous to some in her native land. “People in India have sometimes found it mystifying that these topics get funded: ‘Beauty? What about chemistry? What about the asphalt mix to lay roads? This is what they taught you in America, huh, to study these sorts of things? What does this lead to? Who is it going to help?’” She welcomes these questions. “The value in it for me is that I am always analyzing beauty as part of other aspirations and ambitions that India has for itself. What do we want to be as a nation? To me, beauty is a part of the same modernizing spirit that also desires asphalt roads.” Looking through the prism of beauty, Parameswaran sees an India that is eager and working hard to make its mark in a post-industrialized economy, a postcolonial India that proclaims it will be as good as the West, on the West’s terms. “I’m very interested in the way that beauty gets caught up in other projects — nationalism, globalization, and modernity — and how beauty and images of women’s bodies are used and manipulated, how ideas of beauty service larger social and economic projects.” Beauty pageants in India were, indeed, part of larger projects. In her monograph on the 1996 Miss World contest and a subsequent paper on India’s international beauty queens, Parameswaran explores how the training of Miss World and Miss Universe titleholders became a virtual industry in the country. The winners were described with patriotic pride in celebratory media reports that detailed their disciplined approaches to fitness regimens, coaching, grooming, public speaking, and fashion. Some women even endured painful surgical procedures in order to reach their goals and gain international fame. Such narratives were more than hero-worship in a nation that suffered some embarrassment for its lack of success in international athletic competitions, Parameswaran says. These stories also gave voice to and authenticated the aspirations of India’s growing middle class.
“The socioeconomic forces underlying the rise of India’s global beauty queens include the state-sponsored arrival of globalization, unprecedented growth in the media industry, and an associated explosion in beauty culture,” she writes. In India beauty pageants are being introduced in small towns and rural areas as marketing tools, Parameswaran says. Local politicians become involved, and representatives of corporate sponsors can be on stage, connecting personally with potential consumers. Such commercial rituals, Parameswaran argues, become social sites “to train women on what is beauty, what kinds of beauty they should aspire for, and how products in the market can assist women in their quest for beauty.” Capitalizing on the growth of “beauty culture” in small town and rural India, cosmetic companies have begun marketing products in single-serve sizes, pricing them to be affordable to millions of poorer women who can then buy them without guilt. In the United States, Parameswaran says, skin color was incorporated into a civil rights movement that proclaimed black as beautiful. Even so, media imagery here still provides evidence of “colorism,” a form of discrimination in which those with darker skin are subtly “penalized,” especially women. And while colorism in the United States can be traced back to segregation and, ultimately, slavery, its origins in India are more difficult to determine, Parameswaran says. In India, light and dark skin cross caste, ethnic, and class divisions in complicated and diffuse ways. The question Parameswaran poses is this: When women purchase these products marketed to support notions of lighter-skinned beauty, what do they believe they are purchasing? “Sales of these cosmetics doesn’t imply that consumers are dupes or that cosmetics get sold because Indian women uncritically believe they are going to become light-skinned. I would argue that they, possibly, know that they cannot. “But there’s a chance. It’s like intelligent gambling,” Parameswaran continues. “I may not become light-skinned, but it’s not going to make me darker skinned, and there’s a remote chance, so why not take a gamble?” She likens this thinking to women in the West purchasing anti-aging creams. “Ask women here if they really believe the products work and they’ll likely respond, probably not. But they might, so … .”
And for women in India, the feeling of economic empowerment is just as important. “This is what poor women in India told me,” Parameswaran says. “We have some surplus money now that we’ve come to the city. It makes us feel good that we can afford to buy beauty products, to throw away some money, because it suggests that we have some of the luxuries that middle-class women have.” “Images of beauty culture” are being used to redefine what a modern Indian woman is, according to Parameswaran, reconciling “traditional norms of modest beauty, thrift, and domesticity with the seemingly modernist pleasures of glamour, self-indulgent consumption, and luxury as a route to self-fulfillment and a more cosmopolitan identity.” Not surprisingly, the advertising industry’s promotion of light-skinned beauty has prompted backlash, from Internet discussion groups to feminist organizations protesting egregious advertisements. Parameswaran wants to explore these counter-currents in her future research. An example, she says, is the mid-1990s movie Bhaji on the Beach, in which a group of Indian women living in Britain take off for a weekend at the seashore. In one scene in the film bound to provoke anger in viewers, a dark-skinned woman gets blamed unfairly for being ugly and hence responsible for her husband’s defection from the marriage and family. Similarly the strong “heroine” of Monsoon Wedding who protests her child abuse is not a conventional Bollywood beauty. These film women are counterpoints to, say, Aishwarya Rai, the 1994 Miss World winner who was subsequently proclaimed the most beautiful woman in the world and has enjoyed a successful international film career. Referring to the woman who directed Bhaji on the Beach, Parameswaran says, “I would like to find out if ideas of resisting beauty played any role in her picking this woman (the actress).” While beauty once was proverbially in the eye of the beholder, it’s now in the sights of those whose goals are to market their products, ideas, and political positions — and Parameswaran will be keeping an eye on them. Eric Schoch is a science writer for the IU School of Medicine in Indianapolis.
Photo courtesy of www.aishwarya-rai.com
— Radhika Parameswaran, talking about the desire of Indian women to have lighter skin such as that of 1994 Miss World Aishwarya Rai at right.
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“Generations of women in India, including my mother and grandmother, have grown up with the idea that light skin color is beautiful. Certainly I heard it growing up again and again and again: To be light-skinned is to be beautiful.”
Peg Zeglin Brand, an artist and associate professor at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, works on Paula Gauguin’s Spirit of the Nude Posing, a painting based on Paul Gauguin’s Spirit of the Dead Watching (1892) that appears in Brand’s ongoing Picture Yourself Here exhibit.
Re-visioning beauty by Susan Moke
of white, European, upper- and middle-class art, produced primarily by male artists. In Beauty Matters, she quotes the Guerrilla Girls — a feminist activist group — who pose the question, “Do women have to be naked to get into the Metropolitan Museum?” In 1989, the Guerilla Girls compared the number of nude males to nude females in the artworks on display at the Met. They determined that while fewer than 5 percent of the artists in the museum’s Modern Art section were women, 85 percent of the nudes depicted were female. Has the situation improved? Brand believes it has. She attributes part of this improvement to the international context in which women artists now live and work. Social networks enable artists to gain audiences. Brand points out that “contemporary art is ... intimately tied to — and expressive of — the world outside the narrow confines of the mainstream ‘art world’ of high-profit New York and London galleries, museums, and auction houses. Political art is being made by numerous but lesser known artists who are often involved in local and international issues, and not surprisingly, in artistic and political activism.” BUILDING ON THE FOUNDATONS OF THE PAST Brand sees two components as vital to hammering out a more
Brand sees two components as vital to hammering out a more complex and nuanced aesthetic that is equal to our current era. The first is to employ what can be salvaged from traditional definitions of beauty, even though Western culture enshrines the bloom of youth with perfection, whiteness, and femininity. The second is to focus on inclusivity and interdisciplinarity.
the question, “What does beauty mean in the 21st century?” Prompted perhaps by our increasingly pervasive media culture, a greater number of scholars, artists, and art critics are engaging this question more vigorously than ever before. A decade ago, when she edited a collection of essays titled Beauty Matters (Indiana University Press, 2000), Brand found only two main texts to cite in her introduction: The Invisible Dragon: Four Essays on Beauty by Dave Hickey (1993) and Uncontrollable Beauty: Toward a New Aesthetics by Bill Beckley and David Shapiro (1998). In her introduction to a second volume, Beauty Revisited (forthcoming from IU Press), Brand lists an explosion of publications on the topic, including Umberto Eco’s History of Beauty (2004) and Linda Nochlin’s Bathers, Bodies, Beauty: The Visceral Eye (2006). The Beauty Revisited collection, which is international in scope, includes 20 essays focusing on revising the concept of beauty, on standards of beauty, on the female body in performance, and on the impact of the state on representations of women. SUBJECT AND SUBJECTIVITY Brand observes that the history of art has been the history
complex and nuanced aesthetic that is equal to our current era. The first is to employ what can be salvaged from traditional definitions of beauty, even though Western culture enshrines the bloom of youth with perfection, whiteness, and femininity. The second is to focus on inclusivity and interdisciplinarity. Brand believes philosophers have not fully acknowledged art historians and cultural critics who find issues of race, gender, class, and sexuality vital to contemporary discussions of beauty. Such political and ethical issues undercut simplistic assumptions about the nature and impact of aesthetic pleasure. Two recurrent themes, both rooted in 18th-century aesthetic theory, run through Brand’s work. First is the concept of disinterestedness, the requirement that the producer of fine art and its viewer distance themselves from the object under view, even if that object is, say, a flawless female body. The second concept Brand and other feminists incorporate into their work is the condition that artistic representations of beauty must move the viewer by inspiring pleasure and other uplifting emotions. Feminist philosophers, whom Brand is careful to note are still very much in the minority, have pointed out that where depictions of the female body are concerned, the pleasure incited is
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Photo by Peg Zeglin Brand
ow more than ever, beauty surrounds us. We are connected to global media via hand-held devices, 24/7, inundating us with images of compelling environments, faces, and bodies that alternately inspire, transport, sadden, and seduce. Philosophers have long been in the business of defining beauty and the emotions it provokes. Plato believed in a universal form of beauty that was ideal and unchanging. Aristotle considered beauty—along with truth, goodness, and unity— one of the four eternal verities that should govern human behavior. Thomas Aquinas saw beauty in the manifestation of real-world objects characterized by perfection, proportion, and clarity, qualities that summon serenity and calm desire. Immanuel Kant acknowledged the pleasure that fine art imparts and separated its beauty from moral goodness. Peg Zeglin Brand is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (and wife of the recently deceased Myles Brand, IU’s 16th president). As a working artist, Brand is concerned with creating beauty. As a philosopher, she works to forge new definitions of beauty. As a feminist, she focuses on representations of the body—especially the female body—and their political implications. In each and all of these roles, she sees no easy answers to
Photo by Peg Zeglin Brand
Picture Yourself Here
Peg Brand’s ongoing project Picture Yourself Here consists of a series of visual parodies of famous paintings by artists such as Willem de Kooning, Sandro Botticelli, and Paul Gaugin — artists routinely revered as “masters” whose depictions of women have been critiqued as exploited objects of “the male gaze.” Brand’s large-scale interactive works invite viewers to imagine how it feels to be a “sitter” or model for the artists by posing in the paintings. Picture Yourself Here: Sandra Botticelli’s Venus Surfing (On a Seashell), oil on foam board, 36" x 47" x 1", 2005, based on Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, after 1482
Photo by Peg Zeglin Brand
[ l e f t and a b o v e ]
[RIGHT] Paula Gauguin’s Spirit of the Nude Posing, oil on foam board, 60" x 84" x 1", 2006, based on Paul Gauguin’s Spirit of the Dead Watching, 1892
exploitative male pleasure, which contradicts claims of disinterestedness. In her earlier essay collection, Brand writes “men have a long-established tradition of appreciating beauty in nature, art, and women that is chronicled in the histories of art, philosophy, and literature. More recently, however, such men have been accused of enjoying much too heartily the privileged ‘male gaze,’ a look, some feminists claim, that objectifies, belittles, and silences the women on display.” In the 1970s, film theorist Laura Mulvey introduced a theory positing that “the male gaze” reflects a dominance of male over female, clothed over naked, active artist over passive subject. This concept of the “scopophilic gaze”— a psychiatric term that refers to sexual pleasure obtained by looking at nude bodies and erotic photographs—became a staple of feminist analyses. In recent decades, however, the concept has been challenged in light of the abundance of both female and male body images in popular culture, the growing research on perception by cognitive scientists, and the development of competing theories of feminine pleasure. Consider Edouard Manet’s painting Olympia (1863), which depicts a reclining nude wearing small articles of clothing—a bracelet, an orchid in her hair, a ribbon around her neck—that make her seem more naked. Manet’s model—the painter Victoria Meurent—stares back at the viewer, which was considered scandalous in the 1860s, suggesting that she has been given some agency by the painter. Brand hesitates to agree. In fact, Manet’s Olympia is one of the paintings Brand calls into question in her ongoing project “Picture Yourself Here.”
(The exhibit recently appeared at the Cultural Arts Gallery in the new IUPUI Campus Center.) The exhibit consists of large parodies of famous paintings that feature women, with the faces cut out. Exhibit visitors are invited to place their own faces in the paintings. Intended as a feminist (and humorous) challenge to the traditional canon of the “masters,” Brand says the project invites viewers “to imagine how it feels to be a ‘sitter’” for one of the male artist masterpieces. As Simone de Beauvoir observed in The Second Sex (1949) and more recent writers such as Naomi Wolf have pointed out, women have been complicit in their own oppression by participating in the “beauty myth,” which further complicates the challenge for women artists who seek to create beauty and represent the female form as an empowering act. Feminist artists have a history of using their bodies to undermine stereotypes about the role of beauty in providing artistic pleasure. Photographs included in the 2007 “Global Feminisms” exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum provide a case in point. The exhibit, which included works by 90 artists from nearly 50 countries, exemplified the various ways feminism has evolved across the globe. In a series of images titled “Static Drift,” Kenyan artist Ingrid Mwangi represents world regions on her own bare torso to document her dislocation from Kenya to Germany, which is her mother’s homeland. Announcing her immigrant status and the need to renegotiate her identity, she uses her body and variations in her skin color to portray both the nation she has left and the one she has adopted, while simultaneously commenting on the fact that belonging is a vis-
Photo by Peg Zeglin Brand
TOWARD A NEW FEMINIST AESTHETIC Yet basic questions remain about our preconceived notions of art and beauty. Brand writes that in our transnational media culture, “ingrained images of Twin Towers and the tortures at Abu Grahib have launched us into a new era of representation, artistic production, and aesthetics.” This transnational perspective certainly has an impact on depictions of the female body. A photograph in the New York Times on July 12, 2008, shows a veiled Iraqi woman standing against a clear blue sky surveying the rubble of her bombed family home. The image is hauntingly beautiful. Equally beautiful is the artistic representation in a video produced three years earlier by artist Lida Abdul that portrays an Afghan woman returning home to the whitened ruins of her former house. What happiness and pleasure can such images inspire, though both are, indeed, beautiful? Brand asks, “How is our perception of beauty informed by our knowledge of the title, ‘White House,’ particularly once we know that Abdul spends the full five minutes of the video whitewashing (with a brush and a bucket of paint) the ruins under the rubric of a term ambiguous in meaning, vacillating, as it does, between the name of the residence of the U.S President
who ordered the bombing of the Taliban and the resulting white rubble that underlies the action of the artist who whitewashes, i.e., ‘hides the truth about something’ or ‘covers up.’” Such questions are potent and difficult to answer, but Brand is interested in pointing her readers—and the viewers of her work and that of other feminist artists—toward a more extensive, deeper understanding of beauty. While noting that “the past cannot and should not be ignored,” she goes on to say that “in aesthetics and the philosophy of art, revered pronouncements on beauty by standard-bearers like Plato, Burke, Hume, and Kant inevitably serve as a backdrop to approaches one might take in assessing representations of war, abuse, the environment, cultural identity, or even fashion and popular cultural icons that saturate our visual fields.” Susan Moke is director of communications for the Office of the Vice Provost for Planning and Policy and communications advisor to IU’s first lady. She is working on an architectural history of IU in collaboration with retired Vice President J. Terry Clapacs.
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ceral experience. Noting that this subject/artist’s body is not on view for the pleasure of the male viewer, Brand sees Mwangi’s work as embodying feminist identity and artistic agency. For her, the difference between Meurent as Olympia and Mwangi’s self-portrait “hinges on the attribution of agency.”
Textures of nature Rowland Ricketts savors the moment when the indigo dye he uses is in the vat, just beginning to ferment. “Momentarily, I stand between the history of the materials and processes that helped me get the indigo thus far and the promise of all the works that the vat is still yet to realize,” says the assistant professor of textiles in the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts at Indiana University Blooming-
ton. The indigo-dyed works pictured here are adaptations
of noren, traditional Japanese partitions. Ricketts says the noren he creates both separate space and collect its light and air, reflecting our “transitory experience.” Ricketts processes his own indigo using centuries-old methods that include harvesting and drying by hand, methods he learned in part as an apprentice in Japan. Those lessons still infuse his textile work. “As a dyer,” Ricketts says, “I strive to transfigure all the energy of human endeavor expended in the making of this dye so that its vitality lives on in the dyed cloth.”
Photo by Osamu James Nakagawa
Rowl and ricke t ts
Rickettsâ€™s noren, meaning partitions, 60" x 60", are made using indigo dyed ramie and katazome (stencilled paste resist). [o p p osi t e p a g e ] Rowland Ricketts stands behind an untitled creation. Ricketts is an assistant professor of textiles at IU Bloomington. [ a b o v e and l e f t ] [ ri g h t ]
Untitled noren, 2006
Untitled noren detail, 2007
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Photo by Osamu James Nakagawa Photo by Osamu James Nakagawa Photo by Rowland Ricketts
Wheel of Life digital collage, 62" x 22"
Photo by John Gentry, IUPUI
M arily N white sell An artist originally trained in traditional printmaking methods, Whitesell now uses digital photography and the computer to generate art in the form of digital prints. Her process to create large-scale digital prints (such as the ones pictured here) begins with a photograph or scan of natural and artificial objects. Whitesell says she is particularly interested in “shells, fossils, and also details of texture and pattern in African and New Guinea pottery, and in Native American baskets and blankets,” which she sometimes enlarges to heighten details of texture, pattern, or color. “Considerable manipulation occurs to shape the overall composition,” says the associate professor in fine arts who teaches graphic design at Indiana University Southeast. “Each print explores curvilinear and geometric forms, repetition, and figure-ground dynamics. The final prints derive from a collage of objects.” To support her work, Whitesell received a grant in 2006 from the New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities program in IU’s Office of the Vice Provost for Research. Marilyn Whitesell is an associate professor in fine arts at IU Southeast.
Rings of Time digital collage, 62" x 22"
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Image courtesy of Marilyn Whitesell
Image courtesy of Marilyn Whitesell
by Lauren J. Bryant
Indiana University 26
“Do we not already sing our love for and obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes, but just what and whom do we love? … Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage. Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate whole communities without Photo by Chelsea Sanders
rowing up in Wisconsin, William “Bill” Jones knew what made a good lakefront: marshy shores lined with forests and tall grasses; some aquatic plants, perhaps a log fallen in the water, providing hiding places for the fish and tadpoles and turtles he loved to catch. Now a clinical professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington, Jones still knows what makes good lakefronts, and he’s concerned about their disappearance, especially in Indiana. Jones has been an aquatic ecologist and limnologist (someone who studies lakes and other freshwater bodies) for 30 years. Trained as an undergraduate in zoology and ornithology (he still keeps a bird feeder outside his thirdfloor office window), Jones earned a master’s degree in water resources management from University of Wisconsin in 1977. But he “cut his teeth,” he says, at Cedar Lake in Indiana, when he was put in charge of a state project to assess the lake’s problems in 1979. Cedar Lake was a tough assignment. “This was not a pretty lake,” Jones recalls. “It was pea-green soup, surrounded by homes and full of nutrients from agricultural runoff.” Following close on the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Lakes Program and the Clean Water Act in the 1970s, Jones was tasked with carrying out new federal protocols for diagnosing, improving, and preserving water quality at Cedar Lake. The project was the first of its kind in Indiana, says Jones. Since 1979, Cedar Lake residents have continued lake improvement efforts that have slowed down or eliminated some sources of their lake’s degradation. According to Jones, though, the problems seen at Cedar Lake remain rife throughout Indiana today. Much of the trouble stems from what Jones calls “shoreline abuse.”
The livin’ is easy … for whom? Americans, Hoosiers among them, have enjoyed lakefront living for well more than a century. In earlier days, lakefront dwellings were largely Walden-like cottages situated in the woods, used for summer outings. By the mid-20th century, though, with the end of World War II and the advent of the national highway system, lake living began to change. “Recreation at lakes increased greatly after World War II,” Jones explains. “There were highways, more automobiles, and shorter work weeks. People had time, money, transportation, so they went to the lake.” And when they got there, they started building second homes. Over time, seasonal cottages were torn down and
batting an eye. …” — from A Sand County Almanac (1948) by Aldo Leopold replaced with substantial dwellings. Today, the pinnacle of lakefront living has become a mansion-like house set on a manicured lawn, surrounded by seawalls, docks, piers, and all the watercraft to go with them. Many of these homes are stunning. In a presentation Jones gives regularly to lake managers and property owners, he shows photograph after photograph of breathtaking homes featuring professional landscaping and undulating terraces spilling down to the water’s edge, including dwellings on various Indiana lakes such as Lake Tippecanoe and Lake Chapman.
the art of When Jones looks at these houses, though, he doesn’t see beauty, but abuse. In his view, the removal of native shoreline plants and trees, and their replacement with bulkhead seawalls and other structures made of impervious materials, is nothing less than an assault on the lake’s wildlife and the very life of the water itself. “Lakes are not immaculate. Nature isn’t neat,” Jones says. “Lakes are diverse, and they function ecologically because they are diverse. Without a natural shoreline, the resiliency of a lake and the lake environment to respond to change is really lost.” Without the buffer of native vegetation along a lakeshore,
for example, shoreline erosion escalates rapidly, while lawn fertilizers and other runoff easily flow into the water, causing excess nutrients that produce more algae. The removal of trees also removes habitat and food sources for fish, who like the shade of standing trees and the shelter of downed limbs. Fish also feed on insects that fall from tree branches into the water. “When you take away natural vegetation and put seawalls in, there are no longer homes for anything at all,” Jones says. As a result of his research and work with SPEA students throughout the state, and his ongoing gubernatorial appointment to the Indiana Lakes Management Work Group, Jones
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has lots of exposure to the damage caused by modern-day development along lakeshores. “I’ve seen way too much shoreline abuse in my 30 years in Indiana,” he says. Jones points out that lakefront problems are worse in Indiana than in other nearby states such as Wisconsin, where a natural resource ethic holds sway. The Hoosier state, he says, is defined by a strong notion of property rights. “In Indiana, the feeling is, the less government, the better,” Jones says, “so there is this general notion that private rights supersede public good. Hoosiers do not want the government to tell them what to do with their property. There are still counties in Indiana that have no comprehensive zoning or planning rules on the books.” He notes that the Indiana Lakes Preservation Act, passed in 1947 and designed to protect the “natural resources and the natural scenic beauty” of Indiana’s freshwater lakes,is very difficult to enforce. Awareness issues The reasons for shoreline abuse extend beyond fierce notions of property rights, though. Ironically, a similarly strong motivation behind sterile lakefronts seems to be good citizenship. As lake homes get developed, Jones says, a certain kind of peer pressure takes hold. Instead of letting native grasses grow or planting native wildflowers, lakefront residents install seawalls so they’ll fit in. “We don’t want to be that different from our neighbors, we want to be known as good citizens, as good neighbors,” Jones says. “People want to show they care.” There’s also the fear factor. In his experience with lakefront dwellers, Jones often hears “fear of snakes” as a reason for not maintaining a natural shoreline. “There is still a fear of nature at work,” he says. The overriding issue behind shoreline abuse, though, is lack of awareness about the essential ecosystems of lakes. The quality of a lake’s water and its wildlife depend on the habitat and filtering functions provided by natural vegetation and wetlands. It’s an interrelationship Jones learned about early, from his boyhood in Wisconsin and from the work of conservationist Aldo Leopold, who described a “land ethic” based on cooperation and respect in A Sand County Almanac more than 60 years ago. “In my formative years, that book helped me toward a more ecological way of thinking, a more sustainable way of thinking before sustainability was a buzzword,” Jones says. Among lakefront dwellers today, though, Jones encounters “an amazing lack of understanding” about fundamental ecology. “People just don’t think of a lake as an ecosystem, they don’t understand the cause and effect,” he says. As a result, they damage the very things about lakes that drew them there in the first place. “People are attracted to the natural beauty of lakes and the thrill of catching fish in their own backyard,” Jones says. “They may be there because of the joy of watching birds and
other wildlife, or to have a place where their grandchildren love to come to hunt frogs and turtles. The greatest irony is, the features that attract people to lakeshores are being destroyed by the actions those people take.” Stewarding solutions Jones, a lifelong teacher and self-described “applied kind of person,” says the solutions to shoreline abuse are education and examples. About 20 years ago, Jones, working with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, created the Indiana Clean Lakes Program, which he continues to oversee today. Working with SPEA master’s students, Jones spends part of every summer sampling Indiana lakes, gathering data on their status and health, and sharing that data with federal and state monitoring agencies. The program also includes public education and volunteering components. “We give citizens the tools and equipment so they can take a more active role in looking after their own lakes,” Jones says. One newer area of research Jones is pursuing is assessing the economic value of Indiana lakes. It may seem obvious that bad water quality in a lake would negatively affect the lake’s appeal, but Jones says lakefront dwellers often don’t connect the economic dots. “In some counties, the vast majority of property tax revenue comes from lake homes and the sales taxes of people going to use those lakes,” he explains. “But as a lake’s water quality degrades, property values degrade. And as those values degrade, the tax base starts to degrade. So there’s a substantial argument to be made about economic value of lakes.” For Jones, though, the value of a lake’s natural ecosystem will always come first. Although he’s worried about the extent of the shoreline abuse he sees, Jones is also encouraged by a number of new watershed and lake preservation initiatives springing up around the Hoosier state. He points, for example, to Kosciusko County, where various lake groups in the area have created a new county lakes and streams Web site and organized the Northern Indiana Lakes Festival, which took place in June 2009. Lakefront problems are cumulative, and so are the solutions, Jones says. “Things happen a little bit at a time—people who simply follow what their neighbor is doing, people who think a seawall is the only way to protect their shore. We’ve got to convince people that the solutions are cumulative too, and that if they just make a start, they can lead by example and make a difference.” The rewards for those small steps are invaluable, as any child who has chased turtles on a summer day knows. “There’s nothing quite like the sound of water gently lapping up against a natural shore,” says Jones. “It takes you to another place.” Lauren J. Bryant is editor of Research & Creative Activity magazine.
An orchestration of art ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’ — John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”
by Jennifer Piurek Gallery in Chicago. The gallery has been reviewed locally, nationally, and internationally for its exhibitions, and Chicago museums including the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Contemporary Photography have acquired work from it. On the Indiana University Bloomington campus, Robertello has collaborated with the IU Kinsey Institute and the School of Fine Arts Gallery as a curator. The magic flute Robertello, the musician, began playing the flute at age 10 when he was growing up in New Jersey. “I immediately enjoyed the sound, the physical nature of an emotional release through the breath, and the way seeing musical notation engaged my mind,” he says. “As a child and adult, music saved my life in many ways. I’m grateful that it was available to me in the public school system.” As a teen, Robertello became aware that some people actually played in orchestras for a living; he saw the life of a professional flutist as the ideal career. One year, his late brother, Gary, presented Robertello with Boston Symphony tickets for Christmas. “We went to the concert in Brooklyn and from the top balcony, I saw for the first time that the flutist was in the center of the orchestra. This thrilled me.” A sudden off-stage drama left the teenage Robertello spellbound: An audience member leaving during the performance had a near-fatal accident. “The dramatic shift between fantasy and reality — I absorbed that stark contrast as a tool of expression at that moment.”
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acobs School of Music Professor Thomas Robertello is a successful art gallery owner with an international career as a flutist and an extensive private art collection, but he’ll never forget his first art purchase. When he was a 20-something art enthusiast, Robertello fell in love with a $1,500 painting in a gallery, but at the time, he couldn’t afford to buy it. “I thought I could make it myself,” he admits. “Making amateurish abstract paintings gave me a sense of what to look for in other artists’ work.” As he began his art-collecting career, Robertello bought small, inexpensive paintings, works on paper, and prints. Soon, he got hooked on finding emerging artists. During concert tours, he took to visiting as many galleries and museums as possible, buying directly from artists and their galleries — and gradually, trusting his instincts. “I found that I had a really good instinct for choosing younger artists,” he says. “I was able to make purchases of some major works before high-powered collectors were collecting the work. Over the course of a number of years, those purchases have gained in value considerably. It gave me confidence that I knew what I was doing.” Eventually, Robertello decided to support a group of emerging artists who needed exhibition space by opening his own gallery. He spent months exploring the formation of a corporation, tax and accounting requirements, and press and museum contacts, all the while meeting with artists to see whose work would be a good fit for the gallery. Within three years, he had created Thomas Robertello
Robertello joined the faculty at IU’s Jacobs School of Music about 13 years ago, at age 30. His pre-IU career includes membership in the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the National Symphony. He is a guest flutist with the San Francisco Symphony and the Houston Grand Opera, as well as a former faculty member of Carnegie Mellon University and the Cleveland Institute of Music. Robertello’s teaching and performing have taken him throughout the United States, Japan, South Korea, China, and South America. He has made many solo recordings, including Telemann’s 12 Fantasies for solo flute, released by Delos in July 2009. “I have been fortunate to work with very good orchestras, soloists, conductors, recording engineers, and students,” he says. Robertello says it’s especially gratifying to attend a student recital and witness a new level of achievement. “To be on the inside and have a personal connection to someone on the cusp of having a career, hear the recital, and know that it turned out a certain way in part because our paths have crossed, is enormously satisfying,” he says. Noting that both his music and gallery careers give him the opportunity to work with up-and-coming artists, Robertello says, “My music students and the gallery’s artists both need support, direction, information, and an intrinsic belief in their work and how it relates to the current template that exists in each business.”
Seeking beauty everywhere Robertello’s own musical inspiration is interconnected with current events, politics, and social issues. Recently, he was practicing his transcription of the Chopin Cello Sonata when his mind began to drift toward the passengers of Air France Flight 447. That’s the plane that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on May 31, 2009, carrying more than 200 people, including Turkish harpist Fatma Ceren Necipo˘glu, a 2001 graduate of IU’s Jacobs School of Music. “Thoughts of the horror they endured entered my mind, and my imagination took over. The horrific reality of their journey is not something easily understood. There’s nothing in my life to draw on for inspiration to help render this music, and thoughts about current events often are intertwined with my interpretations,” he says. As he thought of the plane crash, the lines of music turned to waves, he recalls. (Elsewhere, Robertello has described his flute performances as “live drawings” in which the flute sound is the pencil or paintbrush and the recital hall is “the canvas on which I make my mark.”) As Robertello contemplated “ocean waves and images from the media and past disasters,” he says, “suddenly the music was moving to a different place. Fatma was someone I coached in a few chamber music sessions several years ago. It is deeply saddening to know that anyone would suffer in such a way, and especially so after she had just played concerts in Rio at a harp conference.
Does this apple taste blue?
homas Robertello will never forget the first time he heard a painting. He was at an exhibition of works by Agnes Martin in Taos, New Mexico, in which all of the paintings featured horizontal bands of color. Everyone at the gallery was viewing the paintings; Robertello alone heard a low-pitched, droning hum emanating from the lines where the colors met. “I asked someone else in the room if they heard it too, and they looked a little scared,” says Robertello. A couple of months later, Robertello happened to see a TV program about synesthesia, a neurological condition in which one sensory or cognitive pathway automatically leads to another, and he realized he had a unique gift. (In Greek, the word “synesthesia” loosely translates to “mixing of the senses.”) For some “synesthetes,” hearing a certain word triggers a taste response in their mouths; some see a certain color when eating specific foods. In the memoir Born on a Blue Day, synesthete Daniel Tammet describes how he sees numbers and words — the number one is “brilliant and bright white,” for example, while five is a “clap of thunder or the sound of waves crashing,” 37 is “lumpy like porridge,” and 89 is “falling snow.” Carol Steen, co-founder of the American Synesthesia Association, says ASA research has identified 54 types of synesthesia — from the rare cases of those who see speech as scrolling ticker tape in different fonts to the more common inclination to see days, numbers, or months as having a certain hue . Stil, the association hesitates to put a number on the percentage of the population who have it.
“Researchers vary in their estimates that between 1 to 4 percent of the population have synesthesia,” Steen says, adding that widespread Internet use has enabled synesthetes and researchers to connect more than ever before. Famous synesthetes include composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein; composer and pianist Duke Ellington; hip-hop producer and artist Pharell Williams; performers Tori Amos, Stevie Wonder, and John Mayer; and the author Vladimir Nabokov who, as a toddler, reportedly told his mother that the colors on his alphabet blocks were “all wrong." “The private joke with Lolita is that Vladimir Nabokov saw the letter ‘L’ as a limp noodle,” notes Steen. Scientists in at least 15 countries are studying synesthesia and its implications for how the brain works. In the book Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia, authors Richard Cytowic and David Eagleman argue that perception is inherently multisensory, but that most people aren’t aware of the connections between senses. Robertello hears humming sounds when looking at certain patterns. “One thing that stimulates a reaction in the brain will trigger something else, in addition to the usual response,” he explains. “For me, geometric abstract paintings and Op art [art intended to fool the eye, simulating movement through shapes and patterns] will trigger a sound response, usually in the form of a hum or buzz. “When I play my flute,” adds Robertello, a professor of music at the IU Jacobs School of Music, “I see lines of sound traveling
“One has to be open to being moved by the work and lives of others in order to grow,” Robertello continues. “It heightens my sense of responsibility to uphold standards in music after the life of this young woman was cut short in such a tragic way.” Whether in music or in visual art, Robertello finds that real beauty resonates as “a deep and hidden truth,” an idea of perfection that people lose gradually after birth. He conjures beauty daily by listening to recordings such as those of violinist Hilary Hahn and by surrounding himself with photographs and paintings that he loves. “To be in the presence of true beauty feels like a memory,” he says, “something that reminds us of a rapturous truth we long for.”
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from me to the space in front of me. The lines take on various speeds, forms, colors, densities, and textures.” Shehira Davezac, an associate professor of art history in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington, traces this sensory linkage between different art froms back to mid-19th century artist, poet, and art critic Charles Baudelaire. His poem “Correspondences,” first published in 1857, had Thomas Robertello is an ass0ciate professor of flute in the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana an enormous influence on art and literature, University Bloomington. she says. “Baudelaire considered the theory of correspondences to be the foundation of art by the artistic possibility of suggesting one sense by the use “’Perfumes like the flesh of children, sweet as oboes!” Davezac of another,” says Davezac. echoes. “People often refer to emotions in color: you’re ‘feeling In the poem, Baudelaire forms connections between objects in blue,’ someone is ‘black with rage,’ or a person has a ‘green the world and their resonances to ideas and emotions. The poem thumb.’” ends with these verses: Robertello says his synesthesia does not inform his artistic opinions. He doesn’t use his condition like a metal detector for There are perfumes as cool as the flesh of children, selecting the right art, for example. He just involuntarily sees or sweet as oboes, green as meadows hears things that most of us don’t. —and others are corrupt, rich, and triumphant, “Synesthesia is just a random misfiring of signals in the brain; for me, has nothing to do with aesthetics or conceptual relevance with power to expand into infinity in art or music,” he says. like amber and incense, musk, benzoin, — JP that sing the ecstasy of the soul and senses.
Photo courtesy of the IU Jacobs School of Music
Jennifer Piurek is assistant editor of IU Home Pages.
by Tracy James
Photo by Chelsea Sanders
eather Rupp, a researcher at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, uses a weather analogy to help explain her findings: “You might take along an umbrella in case it rains, but not cancel your plans because of it.” “It” is information derived from Rupp’s research about how hormones affect the human brain when it comes to sexual decision making. For example, several of her studies have found that women consider sexual stimuli — primarily pictures — differently, based on the stage of their menstrual cycles. In one study, women’s neural responses suggested that they were more attracted to masculine men when they were most likely to conceive than during other stages of their menstrual cycle. Another study found that the neural systems related to women’s ability to distinguish between masculinized and feminized male faces (even when women were unaware that the faces differed on this dimension) were most active closer to the time of ovulation. Rupp also notes the broader influence of hormones on our moods. “Hormones contribute to a more positive mood, not just influencing sexuality. In a better mood, a woman may be more adventurous, compared to times when is she feels less outgoing. During the first half of her cycle, she may lean more toward reward-seeking behavior, while later in the cycle, the mood is more inhibited, more withdrawn. “Some people are hesitant to think that their behavior is in any way affected by biology,” continues Rupp, whose specialty is behavioral neuroendocrinology. “[But] evolution has directed us toward successful reproduction; it may follow that there is an internal system influencing—but not necessarily determining—our actions and emotions.” So, do common sense or judgment — rather than hormones, pheromones, and other chemicals in our bodies — have anything to say about whom we’re attracted to, who we want to have sex with, or whether we act at all? Yes, but it’s complicated. Rupp began her exploration of hormones and sexual behavior while conducting research on rhesus monkeys at Emory University. The relationship between hormones and sexual behavior among those primates was obvious, she says. With humans, it’s more complex. “In humans, it’s not just the hormones. It’s an intricate interaction of psychological factors, experience, and social influences, as well as hormones, that determine behavior,” she says. Rupp came to Indiana University Bloomington three years ago to work with Ellen Ketterson, a Distinguished Professor of biology who directs the federally funded and Common Themes in Reproductive Diversity Training Grant program. Participating faculty and trainees across the Bloomington campus seek to identify aspects of reproduction that are similar, whether
they study humans, fish, lizards, small mammals, or insects. Now an assistant scientist at the Kinsey Institute, Rupp's research on hormones is regularly published in peer-reviewed journals and taken up by the popular press, no doubt because of what can only be described as a voracious popular appetite for understanding the “laws of attraction.” We all want to know who ogles whom and why. While some of those “laws” seem intuitive or obvious, Rupp’s findings sometimes contradict conventional wisdom. One study that generated popular buzz found that when men and women looked at sexual photographs, the men were
more likely than women to look at the face rather than other body parts. Surprisingly, women were equally as interested in pictures of couples having sex. In another study, whether the study participant had a committed mate influenced how women viewed pictures of men, but did not influence how men viewed pictures of women. While the public may be grasping for clues on how to understand the opposite sex, Rupp, who landed a National Institutes of Health grant in 2009, is more interested in basic science questions, which she pursues with a variety of colleagues. Rupp works with a “dream team” of IU researchers. In ad-
dition to Ketterson, her collaborators include Julia Heiman, director of the Kinsey Institute; Thomas James and Dale Sengelaub, both professors in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences; and Erick Janssen, associate scientist at the Kinsey Institute. “It’s a research playground,” Rupp says. “lt’s fun to be able draw from all this rich and diverse expertise.” Heather Rupp is an assistant scientist at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. In her research, she uses the Imaging Research Facility in the College of Arts and Science's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington.
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James, a cognitive neuroscientist, has guided fMRI studies and helped to analyze the astounding amount of data (two to four gigabytes) gathered from each test session. Sengelaub, also a neuroscientist, shares his research experience involving the spinal cord, sexual behavior, and hormones. Ketterson studies hormones from a more behavioral and evolutionary biological perspective. Heiman and Janssen are widely known for their research involving sexual behavior. Rupp herself is a key player in this research collaboration. Ketterson credits her “focus and energy.” “With Heather taking the lead, we began to address how birds and humans weigh potential partners for reproduction,” Ketterson says. “In my own research, for example, I have found that hormones mediate male behavior in ways that influence how a female chooses a mate. Some of Heather’s interesting findings on humans suggest that female hormones can influence both brain activation and mating preferences, sometimes in ways we humans are not aware of.”
strual cycle, and she is interested in applying these findings to different populations. Risk-taking behavior, for example, is a hot topic in HIV research. Rupp also recently submitted a grant to study more closely the influence of hormones related to risk-taking in women with alcohol dependency. It could be, she says, that the follicular stage of the menstrual cycle, close to ovulation, is a tricky time for women who are prone to risktaking. It’s possible that programs to help alcoholics could take this timing into consideration. Rupp’s recent NIH grant will allow her to study hormones related to postpartum depression. This research is a nod to her collaborators and their shared interest in parental behavior across taxonomic lines. Male birds, like humans, form strong pair bonds with their partners and participate in parental care; female birds form strong bonds with their offspring. One of the same hormones that help to mediate these bonds in birds may also play a similar role in humans, fostering calm in mothers of newborns and making them more resistant to sources of stress.
Rupp is primarily interested in which parts of the brain respond to sexual stimuli and whether the brain responds differently based on hormonal states. Many of her research questions are based on what she has learned from animal models of hormonal influences on the brain.
Rupp is primarily interested in which parts of the brain respond to sexual stimuli and whether the brain responds differently based on hormonal states. Many of her research questions are based on what she has learned from animal models of hormonal influences on the brain. Early in her research career, Rupp knew she was interested in how hormones affected cognition and the brain. Now with a focus on sexual behavior, she says, she can see the pieces fitting together from what is known about other behaviors. Sexual decision making, for example, involves attention, evaluation of risk and reward, and other general neural processes. While limited neural models exist for human sexual decision making, Rupp says the neural systems corresponding to highrisk sexual behavior appear to be the same ones corresponding to high-risk economic decision-making. “All we have to do is prove this,” she says. In one of her studies, Rupp found that when a woman was near ovulation, one reward-sensitive area of her brain, the orbitofrontal cortex, showed increased activation in response to men in general. Other stimuli that arouse this area of the brain include drugs, alcohol, and gambling. Also, brain regions related to reward and risk-taking responded differently to faces of men with more masculine features and were most responsive closest to ovulation, when a woman is most likely to become pregnant. At this point in her research, Rupp says predictions can be made about how decision making changes across the men-
“The different points of view and backgrounds of our group have, I hope, played a role in stimulating Heather’s elegant experimental designs, which are being recognized by the NIH,” Ketterson says. “We hope her research will ultimately be helpful to mothers, infants, and extended families.” Rupp and her colleagues are also looking at how birth control methods that affect hormone levels influence women’s neural responses during sexual decision making. Women who take the pill, Rupp says, have not shown the fluctuation regarding male preferences seen in other women. “Because the field is so wide open and we know so little, it’s exciting to take the first stab to see what’s going on, what’s contributing to how these neural systems respond, and then to be able to ask more relevant questions,” she says. Just how much hormones influence the “mating game” remains unclear because of the many social, psychological, and experiential influences that go into the process. Individual variability, says Rupp, is the crucial question. “For some people, the influence of hormones can be really strong. For some women, it’s more about experience. Different physical and psychological components contribute different weight for everyone,” she says. “Ideally, you find someone you like through the whole month.” Tracy James writes about science, health, and wellness topics for the IU Office of University Communications. She also is a Bloomington-based freelance writer.
The nature of
by Jeremy Shere 1920s through the early 1940s—glamour was a defining aesthetic, related to, but not synonymous with, beauty. “Beauty is often associated with truth and goodness,” Brown says. “Glamour requires a kind of beauty, but it has no bearing on truth. Glamour is more in conversation with delusion, deception, and death.” A deadly aesthetic Brown first became interested the topic of glamour as a graduate student. Reading Virginia Woolf’s autobiography, Brown was struck by a passage where Woolf describes how, while walking with a friend, she passes by a swamp where the skeleton of a dog had been found and comments that “the glamour of the past was on it.” “It was the conflation of the words ‘dead dog,’ ‘skeleton,’ and ‘glamour’ that got me thinking,” Brown says. Her curiosity morphed into a dissertation focused on literary readings of glamour in the modern period. While rewriting her dissertation as a book, Brown came to appreciate the ways in which glamour resonates not only in literature, but also in virtually every sphere of modernism. As the book evolved, a title gelled. Glamour in Six Dimensions suggests that glamour is a multifaceted concept operating not only in literature or commerce, but also touching on celebrity, industry, and violence. Plus, the number six in Greek is hex, which means spell—an etymology that nicely evokes glamour’s mysterious, quasi-magical aura. Brown expands on the “six dimensions” of the book’s title in chapters touching on disparate topics: perfume and
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he cover of Judith Brown’s recent book, Glamour in Six Dimensions, depicts someone you’ve never heard of—Baroness Edith von Winterfeld. (The Baroness does not even rate an entry on Wikipedia, the true measure of obscurity in our time.) Her pose, however, is immediately recognizable. Captured in profile, the Baroness’ visage projects cool detachment. Her hair is concealed beneath a satiny, helmet-like head covering. Under painted eyebrows that taper to a sharp point, her heavily made-up eyes are hooded, gazing down and away at nothing in particular. A disembodied, ghostly hand holds a cigarette inches from darkly painted lips that are set off against the Baroness’ pale, almost translucent skin. “There’s a hardness to the picture—the blankness of her expression, the fact that she’s not engaging the viewer, looking almost inhuman in her perfection,” says Brown, an assistant professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, whose research focuses on Anglo-American modernism and 20th-century Indian writing in English. “This figure is someone who lives in a different rank of life, and we get the sense that any desire that might circulate around this image is one that cannot be satisfied,” says Brown. “The aesthetic of this photograph trades on coolness, aloofness, and lack of vitality.” Brown chose the image for the cover of her book because it’s emblematic of the complex nature of glamour. Unlike the campy associations of glamour in our times (think drag queens and Vegas floor shows), in the modern period—roughly the
Of cigarettes and cellophane Consider the cigarette, which Brown calls “a perfect emblem for glamour.” Originally a handmade agricultural product, cigarettes were big business by the end of the 19th century. But the cigarette’s significance goes beyond its rise as commercial product. It was also important as a status and cultural symbol. “The material cigarette opened up to the smoker an immaterial realm of intensified pleasure through the fleeting draft of nicotine, tar, and a curtain of smoke,” Brown writes in her book. “Slim, streamlined, ephemeral, and ultimately deadly, cigarettes produced, through their veil of smoke, a sense of style, transgression, and danger that, together, created glamour.” A glamour shot of movie star Marlene Dietrich included in Brown’s book illustrates the point: Her face hidden in shadow by a hat that angles across her forehead, Dietrich gazes at the viewer from beneath hooded eyes as smoke trails upward from a cigarette in her right hand. The effect is otherworldly, a frozen moment in some unreachable place. “The idea, or intended effect, is that when you’re smoking, it’s a moment of stopped time when you step out of the productive world and into a more leisure state,” Brown says. “Sitting alone, smoking, it’s as though you are protected by the veil of smoke, even transformed.” Because cigarettes were already recognized in the modern period as a health hazard, smoking was a way of both flaunting and embracing death and, especially for women, a material way to project a nimbus of glamour. “Here is glamour,” Brown concludes of the cigarette, “an experience that moves one out of the material world of demands, responsibilities, and attention to productivity and into another, more ethereally bound, fleeting, beautiful, and deadly.” Less deadly but equally ephemeral, cellophane was also an emblem of glamour in the modern period. The clear, paper-like plastic used today to wrap everything from CDs to flowers was invented in the 1920s. Early 20th-century interior designers embraced plastic as a utopian material that could be molded
[ l e f t ] Judith Brown is an assistant professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington. Brown's book, Glamour in Six Dimensions: Modernism and the Radiance of Form, was published earlier this year.
into fashionable, mass-produced objects. In the ’20s and ’30s, plastic, especially cellophane, was elevated as a glamorous new material. Fashionable nightclubs covered tables in the shiny, transparent material. Movie sets for films made in the 1930s often feature cellophane as a backdrop. Wrapping cigarette boxes in cellophane not only solved the problem of stale tobacco but also enhanced their already glamorous image. Even more mundane objects, like donuts, could be transformed by cellophane’s glamorous aura. Grocery stores that wrapped boxes of donuts in cellophane saw sales skyrocket. “The way that cellophane represents nothing says a lot about the modernist period and its fascination with nothingness,” Brown says. “Cellophane is a thing that’s not really there. There’s no meaning to it, it’s just something you look through and that reflects light, and [people of the] modern [era] were absolutely drawn to it.” For the opera Four Saints in Three Acts (Gertrude Stein wrote the libretto in 1927), the stage designer swathed the set in 1,500 square feet of cellophane, creating an effect that, Brown says, drove audiences wild. Today, of course, we no longer see cellophane, cigarettes, or other symbols of modernist glamour in quite the same way. And yet, Brown says, our appetite for glamour has not changed. “We’re still attracted to the glamorous, but in a sort of retro, nostalgic way,” she says. “The Academy Awards are one example, where stars like George Clooney evoke nostalgic comparisons to Clark Gable and actresses’ gowns are recognizable as glamorous insofar as they’re of a distinctly different era.” In other words, for Brown, glamour is of a piece with the modernist era, which came to an end roughly during or near the conclusion of World War II. Glamour remains relevant, though, for what it tells us about art, literature, music, design, and many other forms of cultural expression during the 1920s and ’30s. “Generally when we think about glamour we see it as a degraded value. But thinking about glamour allows us to see modernism in a new way.” Jeremy Shere is a freelance writer in Bloomington, Ind.
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Photo by Chelsea Sanders
the poetry of Wallace Stevens; writers Scott Fitzgerald and Katherine Mansfield and violence; Virginia Woolf and photography; Greta Garbo and celebrity; entertainer Josephine Baker and novelist Wallace Thurman; and the strange phenomenon of cellophane. “Most people imagine glamour in a superficial way as tied up with consumer desire and nothing more,” Brown says. “But glamour as an idealizing fantasy, as a way of using language—this has a lot to do with things that aren’t about money.” Brown defines glamour as “a negative aesthetic.” “I don’t mean that glamour is bad as opposed to good,” she explains. “It operates a bit like the sublime, except that glamour projects deathliness as a response to a culture in which people feel a kind of numbness.”
Beauty and the
Bleach Bruce Matis is a dentist and the director of the clinical research section for the IU School of Dentistry at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.
by Kay Kenney
he tooth-shade guide is a homely tool. Eighteen incisor-like tabs, progressing from a grayish red-brown to a pearly yellow-white, are mounted onto a small platform. Dentists have used the guide for nearly 50 years to precisely match the color of a patient’s surrounding teeth when performing a reconstructive or tooth-whitening procedure. Among the 18 shades, dentists have regarded “B1” on the guide as the universal standard for translucent perfection. Recently, however, the tooth shade guide got an upgrade. Now, whiter tabs extend beyond B1 into shades that, to the untrained eye, have none of the transparency of B1 and look as though the shade tab has been painted with Wite-Out™. The upgrade is partly in response to patients’ interest in getting a blindingly bright “Hollywood” smile, the kind favored by today’s celebrities and politicians. Bruce Matis, a dentist and the director of clinical research section for Indiana University School of Dentistry in Indianapolis, understands this pursuit of whiter teeth and the appeal of a beautiful smile. “I see patients, many who are in their 60s and 70s, coming into the dentist’s office to simply find out how they can improve the brightness of their smile,” says Matis. “And it is satisfying to see patients get excited about their whitening results.” For nearly three decades, Matis has studied the effects of whitening products on teeth, the problems of tooth sensitivity
caused by the peroxide within a product, and the realistic whitening outcomes depending on the original hue of a patient’s teeth. As cosmetic dentistry has escalated in recent years, Matis’s research has been widely cited in national media, from Consumer Reports to the New York Times to U.S. News & World Report. “Cosmetic dentistry has become a very large part of dental practice,” he says. Studies bear out Matis’s view. Many people consider white teeth the most important facial feature. Other research has shown that a lovely smile is perceived as one of the most import assets in communication. “Tooth whitening does enhance self esteem, confidence, and a feeling of attractiveness,” says Matis. And in today’s cultural pursuit of a youthful appearance, teeth whitening provides that beauty boost at a cost that, while not inexpensive, is more affordable than a series of Botox injections or a nip-and-tuck procedure. For around $500, a patient can have a mouth tray made from a model of his or her teeth in the dentist’s office. The patient then uses the tray to hold a peroxide gel against the teeth for a prescribed time each day for about two weeks. Most patients can expect to see an improvement of two to eight shades lighter in tooth color. It’s a procedure that makes for a more attractive appearance, but hardly the bling-like smiles deployed by even the scruffiest celebrities. And for this reason, Matis sounds a cautionary note. The media’s portrayal of a beautiful smile is unrealistic, and even undesirable, for most people, he says. What appears as a healthy and flawless smile in a picture has
How it works The first documented case of tooth whitening was in 1877 when dentists experimented with oxalic acid on extracted teeth. In the late 1960s, Arkansas orthodontists found that pediatric patients’ teeth became two shades whiter after wearing orthodontic positioners filled with an oral antiseptic that contained carbamide peroxide. Those findings led the Federal Drug Administration to step in and put a stop to the practice of using carbamide peroxide while the FDA investigated possible sideeffects of tooth bleaching, such erosion of the tooth enamel. In 1991, the FDA released a report stating that although the carbamide peroxide may cause tooth sensitivity, it did not unduly harm enamel. At the time, the FDA decided against classifying carbamide peroxide as a drug, but the American Dental Association stepped in to establish its own safety and efficiency guidelines for tooth-bleaching agents under its seal of approval program. Now, any company that seeks the ADA seal of approval must prove that its product follows strict ADA guidelines, which were updated in 2006. Scientists don’t fully understand how carbamide and hydrogen peroxide work to whiten tooth dentin and enamel. Most agree that at some point the peroxide dissolves into a simpler molecule that breaks up staining compounds. This allows light to be better reflected, creating a whiter appearance. Whiteners can both penetrate the tooth surface to affect the color inside the tooth and lighten stains deposited on the outside of the tooth surfaces. Hollywood white? Matis began his research career into tooth-bleaching agents in the early 1990s, the same time the market opened up for new professional and over-the-counter tooth-whitening products. Today, he researches new products for in-office bleaching that boast hydrogen peroxide concentrations of up to 38 percent – all with the marketing promise of greater bleaching power. As a clinician, Matis uses products with only a 10 percent concentration of carbamide peroxide when recommending that a patient whiten his or her teeth at home. He says the lower concentration can achieve the same level of tooth-shade brightness as higher concentrations of peroxide. The lower concentration can also reduce tooth sensitivity, a common side-effect of tooth bleaching. Even with the use of the lowest concentration, Matis finds that about 50 percent of in-office patients will complain of some degree of tooth sensitivity, and about 30 percent will complain of some gum sensitivity.
Matis points out that numerous factors determine whitening outcomes. A patient’s age is one of them. Over time, tooth color darkens from wear and tear and stain accumulation, making it more difficult to whiten teeth. Consumption of red wine, coffee, tea, cola, carrots, and other highly pigmented food and beverages leave more residual stains, as does nicotine. Also, enamel erosion, caused by such things as eating acidic foods, decreases the surface of tooth enamel and allows the yellow or gray-colored dentin to show through. Some medications can cause gray staining in teeth, which is more difficult to remove. The most significant factor affecting the level of whiteness that bleaching procedures can achieve is a person’s original tooth color. “A patient whose teeth have yellow undertones” Matis says, “will whiten more successfully than a patient who has gray undertones.” It is difficult to predict the exact degree of whitening a procedure can achieve. “Overall, about 20 percent of patients will achieve a ‘Hollywood white,’” Matis says. “About 60 percent of patients will be pleased with the result of a brighter smile, 20 percent will say they expected more whitening, and for five percent of patients, there will be little or no change in tooth color.” When less is better Matis’s research has shown that custom tray whitening procedures done in a dentist’s office appear to be the most effective at bleaching the teeth and keeping tooth sensitivity to a minimum. He says over-the-counter procedures have the advantage of being less expensive but are less effective at whitening teeth. Matis dismisses the practice of applying light to the teeth during in-office bleaching because he has not seen evidence that the practice whitens more effectively. Even though there are no studies that show the use of carbamide peroxide on the teeth to be harmful to a fetus, Matis discourages its use during pregnancy or for any woman who is lactating. He also cautions patients about the limitations of whitening. “Patients who have had white fillings in their front teeth may need to have them replaced after tooth whitening because fillings will not change color,” he says. Ultimately, dentists have a responsibility to consider a patient’s overall dental health before beginning the bleaching process. “When a patient comes in requesting a bleaching procedure, the dentist is obligated to restore the teeth to health before beginning the bleaching process,” says Matis. “Bleaching is an optional procedure. Getting rid of decay is not.” He also counsels that the definition of a beautiful smile is a personal one. “Sometimes we dentists can be picky about outcomes. It’s not up to us to define another person’s aesthetic.” Matis has one final bit of advice for those of us who aren’t completely satisfied with the color of our smile. “Don’t look at your teeth in the bathroom light,” he says. “The ultraviolet light makes teeth appear more yellow than they really are.”
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Photo courtesy of the IU School of Dentistry at IUPUI
often been digitally manipulated to increase whiteness and eliminate shadows. In person, the Hollywood smile can appear even more artificial and unnatural. Matis says dentists have an ethical responsibility to talk to patients about their expectations and educate them about reasonable outcomes in whitening teeth. “It’s the dental professional’s role to bring patients back to reality,” he says.
Kay Kenney is a freelance writer in Indianapolis, Ind.
It’s up to you
Using multiple photographs of students, Thomas Busey morphed (digitally combined and transformed) all the images together to create the composite face at far right. A professor of psychology and cognitive science at Indiana University Bloomington, Busey says, “Is the morph more attractive than the most attractive individual face? That’s really up to the viewer to decide.”
More than a pretty face By Jeremy Shere
’m sitting next to Thomas Busey, a professor of psychology and cognitive science at Indiana University Bloomington, looking at a picture of supermodel Cindy Crawford on his computer. We’re staring at Crawford’s face, wondering the same thing. “So what is it about Cindy Crawford’s face that we find so attractive?” Busey says. He’s posing the question in response to the question I’d come to discuss with him: According to science, what makes one face more attractive than another? Busey’s question assumes a few things. First, we do indeed find Cindy Crawford’s face attractive. And second,“we” accurately refers not only to Busey and me, but also to nearly everyone—an assumption amply supported by Crawford’s long-term success as an internationally famous beauty icon. And so I sit gazing at Crawford’s undeniably attractive image, trying to come up with a plausible answer. It’s easy to agree that Cindy Crawford is beautiful—but why? What, exactly, makes her so attractive in the eyes of so many? It’s a tough question, especially for those of us taught to regard concepts like “beauty” (as well as “truth,” “gender,” “intelligence,” “good,” “evil,” and every other big idea) as cultural constructs foisted on us by corporations, governments, the military-industrial complex, Hollywood, and so on. According to cultural theory dogma, beauty is a chimera, a concept with
no fixed position or universal meaning. And to some extent, this is true. Standards of beauty do change over time and differ from place to place and across cultures. For cognitive scientists, though, “beauty” is significantly less pliable. Or, more accurately, for these scientists it’s less interesting to think about beauty as an elaborate cultural contrivance than it is to decode in quantifiable terms how and why some human faces are more attractive than others. So Busey and I sit, staring at Cindy Crawford. In this particular glamour shot, she’s looking over her bare left shoulder, directly at the viewer (me). Her lips, painted red, are slightly parted in a generic sexy pout. Her skin is airbrushed to a flawless, peach-pink sheen. Long brown hair frames her face and high cheekbones. It’s a beautiful face—there’s no denying it. In fact, it’s hard not to conclude that people would be struck by the beauty of this face anytime, anywhere. But the question remains: What special qualities endow faces with such transcendent beauty? “There is general agreement on which types of faces are most attractive,” Busey says, after we’ve been studying Cindy Crawford for about five minutes. “There are lots of individual differences among attractive faces, of course, but we have been able to pinpoint certain broad facial features that, in a general sense, are viewed as the most attractive.”
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Images courtesy of Thomas Busey
Photo courtesy of www.sexygirls.com
seems even more apparent when you witness the magic of face morphing—a computer software trick that involves blending dozens of faces together to create a composite. The resulting face may be called typical insofar as it’s an average of all the faces used. Dozens of studies have shown that people rate morphed faces as more attractive than the individual faces used to make the blend. Super symmetry There’s one problem with the “typical=attractive” hypothesis, though: namely that, despite the appealing faces at the center of Busey’s face collage and the results of face-morphing studies, attractive faces are actually anything but typical. To explain, Busey clicks over to the Web site of David Perrett, a psychologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, who is an expert on facial attractiveness. Perrett’s “laboratory” on the Web site includes information on a
Simply put, the more symmetrical a face is, the more attractive it appears. Dozens of studies and experiments have shown this to be true across cultures. The symmetry theory also goes a long way toward explaining the allure of Cindy Crawford’s face: With the exception of her famous beauty mark, her face — like the faces of nearly all supermodels — is highly symmetrical.
Typical beauty? With a click, Busey minimizes Cindy Crawford and in her place appears a strange image: a sort of collage of bald male faces grouped in odd, misshapen clumps across the computer screen. What we’re looking at, Busey explains, is the outcome of an experiment in which he showed participants pairs of faces and asked them to rate how similar or different the faces appeared. The ratings resulted in the face-collage of men on the screen. The faces break down into four rough categories—fat, thin, young, and old. “The connection to beauty is that each group, defined by similarity relations, has a center,” says Busey, gesturing toward the faces near the middle of each clump. “What we test is whether those central faces, the ones that people considered to be most like other faces, or most typical, are also the most attractive.” At a glance, it’s easy to see that the faces at the center of each group are, indeed, easier on the eyes than the faces at the fringes. The effect varies in intensity from group to group--the old/fat face group appears less attractive than the young/thin face group, as you might expect. But in each group, the faces at or near the middle are clearly the most attractive. Typicality, then, is one possible explanation—the more typical a face is, the more attractive we deem it to be. This
number of experiments and links to interactive, face-based games. (One interaction lets you upload a picture of your face and transform it into faces of different ages and ethnic/racial types. I tried this and recoiled in horror at the image of my adult face rendered to look like a baby.) In one revealing experiment, Perrett had participants rate 60 female faces for attractiveness, then morphed those faces to create an average prototype face. Then he did another morph, this time using only the top 15 most attractive faces among the original 60—let’s call it a supermorph. When he showed both morphs to the participants, a whopping 90 percent preferred the supermorph image. In other words, a composite of only the most attractive faces was judged to be more beautiful than an average of all the faces. Combining the regular morph and the supermorph produced yet a third composite that participants found to be the most attractive of all—a super-supermorph. The upshot, Busey explains, is that what is attractive about the supermorph and the super-supermorph is not that they are typical; after all, in these composite faces, superior attractiveness is over-represented. These faces aren’t beautiful because they look like most of the faces you see around you. What Perrett’s research suggests, and what seems true on a gut level, is that physical beauty is not synonymous with typicality. There’s something else at work in those facial supermorphs.
Before and After [ l e f t ] The “real” Thomas Busey, a professor of psychology and cognitive science in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington. [ ri g h t ] A perfectly symmetrical Busey, created digitally.
whether the guy in the cubicle next to yours has a face that’s slightly more symmetrical than the woman down the hall, or whether your eyebrows are more artfully balanced than those of the barista taking your order at Starbucks. Except that those things do matter, in ways large and small. Studies have shown that people seen as more attractive tend to earn more money and generally enjoy more success at work and in social situations. Other studies have revealed that teachers pay greater attention to the most attractive students. How and why we judge one person or student or co-worker to be more attractive than another does matter, Busey says, because it has real consequences. Our reactions to facial symmetry may be mostly hard-wired, but by knowing that we’re engineered to respond favorably to well-proportioned eyes and lips and noses, perhaps there’s a chance we won’t be tricked by nothing more than a pretty face. Jeremy Shere is a freelance writer in Bloomington, Ind.
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Attraction matters Scientists think that we perceive symmetry as attractive mainly because it indicates genetic fitness. When it comes to the face, as with most body parts, our genes have two opportunities to express themselves—on our left side and our right side. So genetic expression resulting in a well-proportioned, symmetrical face somehow suggests a healthy physical package—one firing on all cylinders, so to speak. But this argument for the seductions of symmetry is somewhat dicey. “At some point, you have to be careful about reducing everything to genetic fitness,” Busey says. Thanks to the ability to screen for genetic disorders, “modern medicine has virtually eliminated the problems that might come up with choosing an unattractive mate.” Still, it remains plausible that when we judge one face to be more attractive than another, we’re acting on ancient instincts regarding reproductive fitness that lead us to read facial symmetry as aesthetically pleasing. As Busey points out, “Do we ever complain that somebody has a face that’s too symmetrical?” But does it really matter how or why we perceive facial beauty? Some people are attractive, others less so. Most of the people we’re around day-to-day are more or less average in appearance, and it doesn’t seem to make much difference
Images courtesy of Thomas Busey
Busey invites me to look more closely, both at David Perrett’s facial composites and, again, at Cindy Crawford’s supermodel shot. Soon, with Busey’s prompting, I begin to see it: The most attractive faces have parts—eyes, ears, noses, mouths, eyebrows—that are remarkably well-spaced. The most beautiful faces are also the most symmetrical—which is why the morphing process results in a composite face that is noticeably more attractive than the individual faces used to create it. “When you morph faces and then morph the morphs to create supermorphs, the facial dimensions average out,” Busey says, indicating the perfectly aligned features of Perrett’s supermorphed face. “Wrinkles blend away, making the face look younger and healthier.” Scientists have widely embraced symmetry as the primary marker of facial beauty. Simply put, the more symmetrical a face is, the more attractive it appears. Dozens of studies and experiments have shown this to be true across cultures. The symmetry theory also goes a long way toward explaining the allure of Cindy Crawford’s face: With the exception of her famous beauty mark, her face—like the faces of nearly all supermodels—is highly symmetrical. Flip through any fashion magazine or celebrity rag, and you’ll find extraordinarily symmetrical faces. Dig out your high school yearbook, find a shot of the homecoming king and queen, and chances are their faces will feature a high degree of symmetry.
Elements of style By Elisabeth Andrews presented themselves, things that change with the pulse of the population,” Rowold explains. A Matter of Context Looking at the range of items in the Sage Collection, from bathing suits to wedding gowns, Rowold says it’s obvious that what is considered appropriate, or beautiful, changes according to the setting and circumstances. “There is very little anyone can say definitely about fashion except that it is contextual. What’s considered beautiful changes, not only across time, but hour-by-hour within your life. You wouldn’t wear your everyday clothes to a wedding, and you wouldn’t go to a meeting in a bathing suit,” she says. Of course, social expectations and fashion rules also change over longer periods of time. Each era has its own look, from the lace collars of the 16th century to the monstrous shoulder pads of the 1980s. Yet whether the trend is toward bustles, bloomers, or baby-doll dresses, Rowold says the sources of inspiration have been relatively consistent. Throughout Western history, she says, “You would look at the most powerful woman and the most powerful man and want to emulate them.” In earlier centuries, those fashion icons could be found in the aristocracy. Rowold points to Queen Elizabeth and, in particular, Marie Antoinette, as notable trendsetters. The majority of the population could not afford to emulate the lavish styles that graced the European courts, and in many instances were
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Photo by Nana Watanabe
n the beginning, so far as we know, clothing had a functional role as well as an aesthetic one, protecting our vulnerable skin from the elements. But today, says Kate Rowold, “we live in artificial environments. We really don’t need clothing to cope with the climate. At this point it is all about appearance.” Rowold is a professor of fashion design and culture in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design at Indiana University Bloomington. While comfort may be a factor in the evolution of fashion, she says, creating a pleasing look is really the primary intent of donning clothes. The clothing choices we make can therefore provide a great deal of information about our current concepts of beauty. Rowold, an expert in the history of Western fashion, says that “fashion, in any century, is closely aligned with definitions of beauty.” As curator of the Elizabeth Sage Historic Costume Collection, a 24,000-item repository of clothing from the last 250 years housed on the IU Bloomington campus, Rowold has an intimate knowledge of how these definitions have played out over time. Although it does include haute couture from famous designers, the Sage Collection largely comprises everyday items worn by ordinary people. These garments chronicle a “social history” of fashion, Rowold says, demonstrating how ideas of beauty continually shift. “We look for examples of the ways people have ornamented themselves, adorned themselves, dressed themselves, and
A beaded and embroidered short-sleeve dress inspired by the paintings of Gustav Klimt, worn with a paisley-printed taupe double-faced wool coat. Both pieces are by Bill Blass, 1995, now in the Elizabeth Sage Historic Costume Collection at Indiana University. Gift of Mrs. Henry Grunwald.
[ left ]
In her shoes
 Brown pumps with strap, maker unknown, c. 1925  Gold and siler lamé sandals, maker unknown, c. 1940 [ 3] Gold leather sandals, Tupper, purchased at L.S. Ayres, Indianapolis, c. 1945  Gold metallic wedge sandals, maker unknown, Japan, c. 1950 [ 5] White and Gold brocade pumps, Ben Becker, c. 1955  Clear vinyl and metallic glitter sandals with sculpted heels, Tip-Toez, c. 1960
barred from doing so by “sumptuary laws” intended to enforce a social hierarchy of dress. But, Rowold asserts, “anything I’ve ever read suggests that people of the lower class tried to look as much like the set style as they could.” In more recent years, rather than modeling ourselves on royalty, we have looked to the modern world’s “most powerful” people: celebrities. “The entertainment world is our new aristocracy,” Rowold says. Yet while much of fashion sensibility comes from the top, increasingly, trends are being influenced by youth and “street culture.” “This really began following the French Revolution,” explains Rowold. “Within a subculture of citizens who were protesting traditional fashion, women dressed in very revealing revivals of Greek and Roman styles while the men wore exaggerated versions of European masculine fashions.” The Aesthetic Movement of the 19th century, with its roots in art and literature, also created an opposition to the nobility’s dress by favoring flowing, organic, Greco-Roman inspired fashions over the stiff and ornate Victorian standard. In the last century, styles like flapper, beatnik, bohemian, hippie, punk, and hip-hop have all originated in youth culture. It’s not surprising that our ideas of beauty continue to derive from youth movements, Rowold notes, when you consider that the body “never looks better than it does when it’s young.” While both men’s and women’s fashions are subject to these influences, they have become increasingly divergent over time. For much of human history, Rowold says, men and wom-
en dressed in similar garments. Even in the late 16th- and early 17th-century courts, “men’s clothing was just as ornamented as women’s, and, although women wore skirts, the men’s breeches were so full that they looked like skirts.” It was King Charles II of England, facing the economic threat of French imports coupled with the growing influence of somberly clad Puritans, who declared it inappropriate for men to continue to outfit themselves “frivolously,” Rowold says. “He proposed a darker, simpler jacket and vest. From our perspective it would still look very dandyish, but it introduced the idea of masculinity and femininity in clothing, starting to separate out into sober sensibility versus frivolous superficiality.” Today, the contrast is incredibly stark—just picture a modern formal event, in which women will be seen in all colors of the rainbow, festooned with jewels, while the men, of course, wear dark suits. While this bright/dark division reflects a modern notion of the superficiality of the feminine in opposition to a more serious, staid masculinity, there is another contrast in dress that offers perhaps even more insight into present gender roles. At the same formal event, the men will be covered from necktie to toe, but the women, most likely, will be exposed at shoulder and neck, perhaps back or midriff or from mid-thigh down. Men will wear a flat, closed shoe with dark socks and women will wear high heels with either bare legs or sheer knit stockings that resemble bareness. “It’s not a level playing ground,” Rowold says, explaining that when one segment of the population is fully dressed and the
Photos courtesy of the Elizabeth Sage Costume Collection, IU Bloomington
other is barely clothed, it’s not hard to identify which group has more power and authority. The recent interest in First Lady Michelle Obama’s decision to bare her arms in diplomatic settings only highlights this division, Rowold says. “So her husband is there wearing four layers, and she’s wearing one-half. What does that say?” What it says, put simply, is that women are objectified. And if that notion seems outdated, it’s only because we’ve become so accustomed to women’s clothing becoming more and more sexualized. To illustrate, Rowold recalls a recent collaboration between the Sage Collection and the Kinsey Institute to put together an exhibit at the Mathers Musuem. “We thought we’d assemble a selection of high heels from Sage and contrast them with the fetish footwear from Kinsey’s collection. But there was almost no difference! The fashionable shoes of today are remarkably similar to the fetish shoes from 30 years ago,” she says. Elements of Design Regardless of these evolving influences of gender, youth, and aristocracy, there are some consistent features that have set apart “beautiful” clothing throughout the ages. Rowold says the “elements of design”—color, texture, shape, and proportion— distinguish fine clothing from garments that are less appealing, just as they differentiate an architecturally stunning building from a more mundane one. “Beautifully designed clothing has always elicited some kind of satisfaction,” she says. “In terms of color, it might be beauti-
fully saturated, or so delicately unsaturated that it catches your eye. A satisfying texture in the fabric might be as buttery soft as cashmere or sharp and rigid from beaded or gold embroidery.” Shape, at least with respect to Western fashion, generally succeeds or fails according to “how the line works with the body,” she says. “A garment that is well shaped and beautifully proportioned will enhance the shape of the human body.” To do so, the garment must not only fit the wearer, but make his or her body appear closer to the “classical ideal” depicted in GrecoRoman art, she explains. Delineating a small waist in comparison to a woman’s hips, making a man appear broad-shouldered, and generally elongating the figure are the primary ways in which clothing has taken on a beautiful shape. “Only recently have notions of ‘beautiful design’ begun to diverge from the elements of design,” she adds. “Today, a design may succeed specifically because it flies in the face of the traditional elements of design.” This contrarian technique, however, still refers back to those traditional elements in its very rejection of them, Rowold explains. The construction of the garment is another aspect of its aesthetic quality. Construction can affect not only a garment’s ability to hold its shape, but also to keep its own integrity as a work of art. “There’s a certain engineering to fashion, having to do with the angle, grain, or gauge of the fabric,” Rowold says. “The beauty of the garment might be the extent to which the construction itself is hidden or vanishes into the fabric.” On the other hand, Rowold adds, a contemporary emphasis
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[ 7] Gold leather pumps, Rayne, 1960s  Brown and tan patchwork leather shoes with high cut-out wedge, Creacianes Magceli Elda, Spain, c. 1970 [ 9] Gold leather open-toe slingbacks, Bruno Magli, Italy, c. 1980 [1 0] Black and red silk satin pumps, Sidonie Larizzi, Italy, c. 1986 [1 1] Black patent leather ankle-strap spectator pumps, Manolo Blahnik, Italy, 1996–1999 [1 2] Gold leather and lamé pumps, Rene Mancini, France, 1998
Photo courtesy of the College of Arts and Science, IU Bloomington
Kate Rowold is a professor of fashion design and culture in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design at Indiana University Bloomington.
on deconstructionism has found its way into fashion. “Garments that appear to be inside-out, seams that are purposefully revealed, or fabric that is distressed—this visible evidence of construction can lend its own beauty,” she says.
Standard Versus Ideal Naturally, most people can’t afford the sort of fashion perfection that embodies such design. Fortunately, another enduring concept in fashion history has been separate expectations for fashion icons and mere mortals. “Pick a time in history, and you will find that there is always a distinction between the ‘standard’ of beauty and an ‘ideal’ of beauty. The standard is something we might actually be able to attain. The ideal is something we strive for,” Rowold says. What distinguishes our current ideals of beauty from ideals of the past is that the images we see today appear to reflect reality, when in fact they contain an imaginary “ideal” created through computer imaging and cosmetic surgery. “What those images do to us, and the extent to which they are damaging, is more than enough for a whole separate discussion,” Rowold says. While the “desire to improve on the human appearance” through dress and adornment has been an impulse throughout history, she says, there are “people today who go to great lengths to modify their bodies.”
Elegance, Glamour, and Casualization Our aims to improve our appearance have generally gone in two directions: the quiet, understated beauty of “elegance” or the bold and gaudy result of “glamour.” “Elegance might be defined as more soft-spoken and glamour a bit explosive,” Rowold explains. This dichotomy might once have been understood in terms of a “Madonna/whore” division, but as “fashion has become increasingly less modest,
there isn’t a clear division between what is respectable and not respectable,” she says. In Rowold’s view, our present era represents a new direction in fashion that she calls “casualization,” a movement away from the formality of the past. “There are fashions worn on the street today that would have been unthinkable even in the 1960s,” she says. “People are walking around town in garments that look like pajamas. Students are wearing fancy, expensive sweatpants. Even on the [fashion] runways, you see lots of men’s hoodies. These are clothes invented for doing a specific thing, like exercising, and now they are on the runway and in everyday wear.” Rowold says the extent of the casual revolution really struck her when she was putting together Child’s Play, an exhibit of children’s clothing installed at the Monroe County History Center in Bloomington, Ind., in fall 2009. “We were looking at different ways in which children have been presented as miniature adults, when suddenly it hit me that what the adults around me were wearing actually looked like kids’ playwear,” she says. “The kids are being made to look like adults, and the adults now look like little kids.” Individual Expression From the aristocracy to the entertainment industry to the present preference for extreme informality, a range of social and aesthetic factors have affected our definitions of beautiful dress. Yet clothing is popularly viewed as a means of expressing one’s individuality. How can this be possible in our world of mass production and mass media? For the most part, it’s not, says Rowold. The very nature of advertising, now positively ubiquitous, is to encourage conformity, she explains. Even a brand that seems to be selling distinctiveness and eccentricity does the opposite if it is successful. “A lot of people today think they are being unique, but how unique can they be?” she asks. “It’s interesting to hear students talk about advertising and conformity, because they don’t seem to realize what’s going on. They think the way they dress is all about expressing themselves, when they are all dressed alike.” You may attempt a little flair, but most people, Rowold says, think that “if it’s too weird, it’s not beautiful.” Still, the fashion rules can be broken, if only rarely. Even a historian like Rowold, whose job it is to categorize and make contextual sense of clothing choices, admits that sometimes a person comes along who—independently, beautifully—sets a new standard. “How else can you explain both Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn simultaneously serving as icons of their era, when they were so different?” she says. “When that happens, it’s because of the individual. There are people who are so charismatic that their extraordinary presence sets a style.” Elisabeth Andrews is a freelance writer in Bloomington, Ind.
Image courtesy of Tina Newberry
Tina Newberry is an associate professor of painting in the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts at Indiana University Bloomington. To describe this painting, she says, “Being part of the Me Generation, I am always on the lookout for my own progress in the world. In this case, the progress is more than just plain aging; it’s evidently making a run for Benjamin Franklin’s style. I have started a wattle of my own, and my hair is getting dangerously thin. The title for this piece is from a line in a Tom Waits song about a waitress who has seen better days: ‘Ah she’s a crumbling beauty; nothing wrong with her a hundred dollars wouldn’t fix.’ I think he underestimates the cost of beauty but I like that he’s looking on the bright side.”
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Crumbling Beauty [Oil on board, 14" x 14"] Tina Newberry, 2009
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Photos courtesy of Cory Robinson
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Terrain Cabinet [wood, paint, graphite, carved panels, 50"h x 20"w x 15"d] Cory Robinson, 2006
Self Portrait as Five Small Drawers [walnut, white pine, mahogany, maple branches, aluminum, paint, and dye, 60”h x 18”w x 18”d Cory Robinson, 2005
Cory Robinson is an assistant professor of furniture design and chair of fine arts in the Herron School of Art and Design at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. He focuses his studio work around the idea of furniture as a vehicle of expression. Using the traditions of woodworking and furniture design, Robinson’s art is aimed at exploring the larger impact of functional forms and how we respond to them. “I try to create work that uses visual texture and emotive response as the primary means of engaging the viewer,” Robinson says. “My portfolio reflects a shift back and forth between obvious surfaces of function and the experimental research of an artist defining many different bodies of work.”
Published on Nov 2, 2009
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