Earlier this year we stumbled across an art exhibition called The Mask at the National Gallery of Victoria’s annual StArt Up arts program. We were struck by the power of the work’s images and their effectiveness in highlighting the complex issue of negative body image. The simplicity is genius. This month we spoke with artist Megan Fraser to find out more about her work.
What is your work about?
My work attempts to highlight the consequences of the effect the media can have on people’s body image and self-perception.
How did you go about creating these images?
It involved three people in a pitch black room. There was the model, smushing their faces into the plastic and trying to hold their breath, there was my assistant whose arms were hurting from holding the single light above the model to get the big shine square in the Glad Wrap, and then there was me, taking the photos, trying to explain what a ‘strained expression’ was and trying not to laugh.
Negative body images is something that has been talked about a fair bit in the media. Why did you decide to tackle this subject?
In high school, the expectations and pressures associated with looking a certain way really reach a peak, and being in that environment, you can really see and feel it for yourself. Also, the thing with body image is that despite it being talked about, negative influences still occur in things like magazines and TV, and sometimes people just need a little reminding that people in real life do have flaws, but it is okay and it is normal and it is beautiful.
The idea of wrapping your subjects in Cling Wrap is such a simple and yet powerful way to communicate your message. What inspired you to do this?
Initially I was looking at perfection, which led me to think of more creative ways of showing things like perfect or flawless skin. I came up with the idea of using Glad Wrap as a trial to create that effect on the model but when we did the shoot it became more meaningful because there wasn’t a way to take the picture without the model looking strained, and this really fired up my thoughts of the mental consequences.
Do you think your art has changed the way people think about body image?
Not changed, but I think it reminds the viewer of a truth to the idea of perfection that people tend to forget when they get swept away in advertising and the way models look in them. This makes my work able to be related back to the viewer and how their own body image affects them.
The Mask by Megan Fraser. Exhibited at StArt Up 2015, National Gallery of Victoria. All works Copyrighted.
What is your message to people who are reading this?
Honestly, nobody is perfect and often when you think somebody is, I guarantee they will have some sort of insecurity. The thing is that people are always thinking about how they look and don’t actually care all that much how you look because they’ve got bigger problems with that pimple on their chin or how their hips look lumpy today because they wore the wrong underwear. When you think of it like that, it’s a lot easier to accept yourself and feel a lot less self conscious. Side note, don’t underestimate personality. You could be the weirdest looking bloke out there, but if you can make people smile they’ll appreciate you for who you are, not what you look like, and that’s the kind of people you want in your life.
Do you plan to continue making art? If so, what other areas of art would you like to explore?
I do, I’m just getting back into the mindset after the craziness of 3 creative subjects for year 12. I really love interesting faces, which is evident in The Mask, and I have ideas of moulding clay faces and imaging the wrinkles. I love hyper-realism and form, and its something that I often play with in my sketches, but I’m looking to try and encourage my own original creativity.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
I’ve got a few things in the works at the moment, such as a course I’m starting next year, and also a Youtube channel I’ve started, and a separate one with a friend. So, in 5 years, I hope they have come to some sort of point. I also would like to develop a more serious name in the art world for myself
What inspires you?
Literally everything. As I’m getting older I’m becoming much more appreciative of smaller things in life, and have developed the ability to find symbolism and meaning in many things, and so this continually sparks ideas in my head.
What upsets you?
In general, things like animal cruelty, complete disregard for the environment and lack of thought for the future, abuse in all its forms. I also find it frustrating when people don’t help themselves, with the numerous resources – online or from interaction with friends, family or professionals, and they leave themselves to feel worse and worse. I believe you can achieve what you want to achieve, you can have what you want to have if you put in the effort and use your knowledge to actively seek it. If anything, if you don’t fully succeed, you will have gotten further than if you hadn’t tried at all.
Megan Fraser. Photography by Natasha Blankfield at The Shot photography.