Keeping it up…

Photographer Phillip Toledano’s series A New Kind of Beauty went up at Gallery 339 this week through January 28, 2012. The work explores ideas of beauty and identity, and critiques our ever-evolving ability to manipulate our appearance – be it through art, surgery, or social media.

The images themselves are an amalgam of lighting and compositional conventions inspired by Renaissance and Dutch Golden Age portraiture that are, in fact, strangely beautiful, while nevertheless almost clinical in their typology of people who have undergone multiple cosmetic surgeries.

An interesting pursuit of sameness surfaces in these photographs – a manufactured appearance of overemphasis. Toledano questions, “Is beauty informed by contemporary culture? By history? Or is it defined by the surgeon’s hand? Can we identify physical trends that vary from decade to decade, or is beauty timeless?”

The photographs, at once both intimate and alienating, are exquisite – and best seen in person.

The Trekkie in me noted one seemingly common aspiration to emulate a Romulan aesthetic:

This was later vindicated, somewhat, by the discovery of an equally-geeky Trekkie translation of another element of contemporary culture that attempts to manipulate our ideals surrounding beauty and desirability – but which, unlike Toldeano’s images, leaves little room for empathy. This spoof, however, is spot on:

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