Issues of Beauty – Tiffany Barber

APRIL 6, 2016

Tiffany Barber is an art student at Edinburgh College of Art (Scotland) and an artist who has built her practice around traditional methods of painting. Using oil paint, she creates realistic images that strongly focus on the female nude and its representation in society and in art.

Tiffany Barber est une étudiante en art à Edinburgh College of Art (Ecosse) et une artiste qui apprécie l’utilisation des supports traditionnels de peinture. Elle travaille avec la peinture à l’huile, aime créer des images réalistes et met un fort accent sur la femme nue et sa représentation au sein des situations sociales actuelles et de l’art.

Can you describe Issues of Beauty?

The initial idea for my work was to create an original surreal image of the female figure, which consisted of easily accessible images from the media. I tend to always base my work on the female figure, yet in these paintings I wanted to take into account how the image of the female body is portrayed in the media today. By doing so I have taken pictures of glamour models from ‘ZOO’ magazine. These paintings have been constructed from collage work, which has given me the freedom to manipulate the images in order to construct a final image that represents the issues of exposed women in art and media. I have combined the organic form of the body with geometric frames and also removed any personal identity from the figures. This is to emphasize the figure alone by highlighting how sexualized the female form/nude has evolved within media and how this has effected the way women’s bodies are used and portrayed in current advertising. They reveal the strain and pressure on society, which is enunciated by representing women in an unrealistic image. My paintings have been created to ask their audience why the female figure is solely characterized for its images of sexuality and perfection. These paintings attempt to comment on and communicate these issues by visually depicting the women having glossy, smooth, photoshopped and perfected bodies, but at the same time, having their identity completely removed.

What significance does this project have to you?

The significance my work has to me is my relationship with my work. As a female artist I paint the female nude because I believe that female sexuality should be celebrated and no longer a shy subject in comparison to male sexuality. Furthermore it characterizes my response to how the media and advertising sexualizes and objectifies women. However, in my paintings I am in control of what the viewers can observe. I do emphasize the objectification of the female figure in my work in order to generate discussions in regards to: why some people instantly objectify women as sexual objects in this day and age where it is less unusual for women to express themselves through their bodies and sexuality?

Who or What influences you?

There is no specific person or artist who particularly influences me. I like to gather my inspiration from my surroundings and different environments I find myself in, especially from encounters with he women in my own life, be them a stranger or friends/family. I like to turn my own personal accounts of where I have witnessed and experienced particular gender demoralization towards women and myself, which visually depicts the female experience of objectification.

What is the best part about being a woman artist in 2016?

One of the best parts about being a woman artist in 2016 is the freedom to enjoy femininity and embrace many opportunities to express and vocalize your own beliefs and opinions about the role of the female in today’s society. The chance to break stereotypes is now more accepted than ever yet there is still so much more to be done and realized by the people, men and women, who still demean woman before we can feel complete equality to men.

Artist statement

My paintings desire to encapsulate the female form in an innovative, abstract manner to convey the ideas of every day sexual objectification of the female nude in advertising and the media.  Any personal identification is detached to create a sense of blurred identity or lost individuality where the figure is symbolized as an object under the constraints of society.  It expresses how the media in today’s society is still more or less masculine dominated where female identity and persona is suppressed in advertising, internet, fashion, art, and everyday life.  The media is becoming more and more saturated with images of ideal beauty, which are in most cases observing the female figure for how perfected it looks.  This is demoralizing and dismisses personality, where individual women are disguised through their bodies for their value, causing naïve male and female audiences to accept this unrealistic portrayal of women.  In this case I am responding to the media through an exact visual account of what image is being created of women in a display of perfect physique.

I am emphasizing the sexualization of the female nude through the use of collage to create images that manipulate further the obvious objectification of the naked female body. It incorporates the figure with a stereotypical ‘girly’ color palette and presents them in a visual display that enunciates these women as the object.  I have combined elements of the organic form of the body with geometric frames and also synthetic materials to add emphasis to the image and its content as a commodity. With the main focus being the way in which the media sexualizes the female nude, I highlight the issue through my own representation by the use of perfect glossy feminine physiques. I acquired these easy accessible images from Google whilst searching for basic ‘healthy’ depictions of the female form. This led me to use these images of the female physique to truly create an image that will demonstrate the unrealistic attitude the Internet has obtained towards the female body. This further accentuates the strain in which media culture is pressuring women to look, dress and act like. The abundance of figures is to further highlight the bombardment of these sexualized images, which we are confronted with.

This is a precarious subject to interpret in a painting, as I am essentially objectifying the female figure in my paintings to raise questions about the role of the female body in media and art today. My paintings have been created to ask its audience why the female figure is solely characterized for its image of sexuality and perfection where women are more now so than ever represented as objects in society. These paintings attempt to comment on and communicate these issues by visually depicting an insight to the personal feeling of female objectification. When will the extremity of sexualizing women in the media come to realistic terms of making honest representations about women?

An undergraduate
feminist art & art history