Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Visual and Performing Arts
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Interdisciplinary Arts and Media | Photography
Darken the Beauty Spots uses images gathered from sources such as Vogue, Good Housekeeping, and action movies to discuss whether images of truly empowered women exist in the media. The project examines six different and specific patterns of imagery found in the media that could potentially be seen as either empowering or repressive. Each pattern occupies its own 35” x 40” canvas that contains between four and eight found images taken out of their original contexts, cropped into fragments, and strategically placed on the canvas in order to create relationships between the images. The work is meant to remain slightly ambiguous, forcing the viewer to use his or her own opinions and experiences to interpret the images. Additionally, all of the titles come directly from advertisements and are meant to allude to the theme of each piece. The first canvas, entitled “Black-lace Thoughts” contains images of women experiencing sexual pleasure. The piece is designed to question whether these images are empowering because they recognize that women are sexual beings, or whether they are objectifying because they reduce the models to nothing more than their sexuality. Following this canvas is a piece that is one of two in this project to discuss female characters in action films. This canvas, entitled “Successories,” consists of four film stills from action movies featuring female characters. The physical strength and violent actions of these characters make them appear empowered, however, these female characters are almost always highly sexualized sidekicks who exist to provide a love interest for the male lead character. The third canvas, “Female as a Silken Cat”, discusses whether images of women posed with or dressed as wild animals are meant to depict women as wild and free sexual beings or whether such images are actually dehumanizing. The next piece, entitled “I Dreamed I Was a Living Doll”, comments on the pressure that is placed on women to achieve the beauty perfection that dolls represent. However, dolls also represent passive and silent behavior, an ideal aligned with society’s desire to stifle women’s voices. “Fixing Supper Fast as Lightning” is the fifth canvas and the second to discuss female characters in action movies. This canvas focuses on three action films, which feature a female lead who uses her physical strength and intelligence to battle the antagonist. In each film, the female character is allowed this strength because she is a mother fighting to protect or avenge her child. This canvas aims to question whether only mothers can be strong women. The final canvas, entitled “The New Age of Grace”, contains images depicting a strong woman’s dominance over a weaker, more passive woman. The piece not only discusses whether such images are playing into the sexual fantasies of heterosexual men, but also comments on privilege. If a woman gains power at the expense of another woman, is anyone being truly empowered? While these six canvases represent only a fraction of the problematic images that occur in the media, they will hopefully encourage the viewer to think more critically about the images they are consuming and to question what it means to be truly empowered as a women.
Ellis, Jillian, "Darken the Beauty Spots" (2011). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 209.
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