This new body of work from Colleen Shull and Justin Shull explores a variety of themes including depiction and representation of women, media and advertising, digital consumer culture, and more. The work being by two different artists working sometimes independently, sometimes together or in an overlapping way, is varied but does share certain characteristics. Strong, slashing lines dominate many of the images, and rich depth of form is created through layering or crumpling of glossy fashion magazine pages. Certain formal qualities may reveal which artist created the work, but over the course of this collaboration each artist has wandered into the stylistic territory of the other.
The content and construction of these images are not only visually striking, but also provoke significant questions. As Susan Sontag wrote in her famous series of essays, On Photography, “There is an aggression implicit in almost every use of the camera.” Many have noted the connection between photography and violence – we so frequently use phrases like shooting, taking a photo, capturing a likeness that they are taken for granted. How does this common rhetoric play when in the context of Instagram, where images are created and shared so quickly and distributed so widely, particularly photos taken from others and shared, or the pictures we take of ourselves? The relationship between artist and muse has long fascinated viewers, and these new methods of distributing images can be a tool to adopt, manipulate and play with this trope.
The depiction of the body, and the role and significance of such imagery is central to this series. Whose bodies are deemed worthy of mass distribution, under what circumstances, and for whose benefit? The bodies on display in this exhibit fit a particular category of socially accepted ideal, the destruction and reconstruction of them highlights the hypocrisy with which we view them. This developing collection of works is only beginning, but already has much to say, and leaves viewers excited to continue scrolling.
Thank you to Shannon Maylath, Curator of Paper Dolls, for contributing this guest blogpost!