Perceptual Beauty

Michelle Marie Murphy, Michelle Murphy, art, artist, artwork, Cleveland, Chicago


Michelle Marie Murphy, Michelle Murphy, art, artist, artwork, Cleveland, Chicago

Structural Degradation

Michelle Marie Murphy, Michelle Murphy, art, artist, artwork, Cleveland, Chicago

Face-Paint Finger-Paint

Business Casual

Lipgloss, applied

Trans Manicure

© Michelle Marie Murphy 2013

“Blush, applied” 2013

“The Origin of Pigment” 2012

100 kisses gradient

Curiosity Rover’s view

Fake Eyelash Refraction

Black Cloud

Self Intersecting Parallelogram

(nails) Array

Michelle Marie Murphy, Michelle Murphy, artist, art, Chicago, beauty, make up, abstraction

At the Edge of Focus

Perceptual Beauty 1

Separators Together


Working in a culture where the attainment of beauty is paramount and science strives to engineer the ultimate look, my photography explores the relationship between consumption and rebellion of these ideals. What contemporary advertising and media culture continue to broadcast as expected in female appearances provides my motivation to examine beauty products.

Inspired by Op Art, Scientific Imaging, and Third-Wave Feminism, I produce slick macro close-ups of the adorned, treated body and beauty “tools”. Through my processes of creating still life and tactile experiments in my studio, I playfully use beauty products as art materials changing their purpose away from concealing or accentuating my face. In the more formal images I repeat and magnify the subject creating optical plays within two-dimensional space. My lighting, studio props, and color palettes provide an aesthetic mimicking modern advertising and scientific imaging.

In the process of creating this body of work, the PR Director of a well-known makeup brand called me through my website.  They saw the artwork I was creating with their products and wanted to co-opt my work into their social media outlets and in return to provide lots of their product as an in-kind donation to my art practice.  At first reluctant to join forces with the industry, I saw an opportunity to show my work to their consumer audience.  The success of this relationship was two-fold, I was no longer a customer of their make-up and I was offered several spin-off opportunities to beauty websites to share my work.   My favorite moment was an interview with a beauty culture news website. The writer asked me a lot about my opinions and relationship to makeup and most importantly my responses were not edited.  I had this moment to speak honestly to consumers about the difficulties with body politics related to the beauty industry.

Beauty in its contemporary context is my discourse. I desire to shift “the gaze” away from the female as a subject (or myself) to the over-the-counter beauty maintenance products themselves. The resulting images blend perceptual space and our cultural space…revealing the subject as abstraction, as metaphor, and again as consumable object.