Susan Anderson, Mary Ashton (2009)
After getting our hair done at Cush Salon by the pixie-like Karina (who employs punk rock styling with a 90210 sensibility), we meandered over to West Hollywood’s Kopeikin Gallery for the first US solo exhibition by Susan Anderson. “High Glitz: The Extravagant World of Child Beauty Pageants” is a glitzy trip down Henry Giroux’s road of “public pedagogy” (a Situationist-like term he coined to describe the nature of the spectacle and new media).
Gallery says: “Children’s beauty pageants are a fascinating phenomenon with over-the-top aesthetics and billions in revenue. However, more than anything, they represent a strange microcosm of America itself and its values of beauty, success and glamor as reflected in the dreams of thousands of young girls. “High Glitz” elucidates the enthusiasm with which the children take part in these ritualized spectacles of crafted female beauty…”
Juxtaposing baby beauty queens with their baroque accoutrements, and finishing it all off with retouching techniques a la David LaChappelle, Anderson’s been documenting the Little Miss Sunshine phenomenon for the past three years. Traveling throughout the US to shoot her candy-coated series of disconcerting portraits on location, the new series of photographs look into the minds of the pre-pre-pubescent in an unsettling way. Setting up her studio amidst the dreams and aspirations of grandeur – or at least glimmers of hope for a sparkling crown – Anderson captures young girls made-up and glittery, ready to be judged. Along with the bambini bella in the exhibit, we find fetishistic objects and cherished components of the competitive world of glamor and façade – Cinderella-like slippers, 18 inch rhinestone tiaras and prized trophies, ribbons, and sashes – contest artifacts that delve beyond the surface and into the psychology of ritual, performance, and artifice. Under a bright and shiny veneer, while positing significant questions about exploitation and children’s roles, Anderson nimbly investigates complex, surreal representations of our youth-worshiping culture[.]
For more information about the exhibition, go here: www.kopeikingallery.com
This post was contributed by Annie Wharton