Six black-and-white portraits of a smiling long-haired woman are arranged in two rows. The first one remains untouched, while the others are progressively coloured with makeup: foundation, then eye shadow, blusher, eyebrow pencil and lipstick. The final face, at lower right, is completely made up.

Suzy Lake

(b. Detroit, Michigan, 1947)

 

A Genuine Simulation of… No. 2

1973-1974

Six gelatin silver prints and commercial makeup mounted on fiber-based print
70 x 82.5 cm
Purchased in 1974
Saidye and Samuel Bronfman Collection of Canadian Art
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1974.70
© Suzy Lake. Photo: MMFA, Christine Guest 


For A Genuine Simulation of… No. 2, Suzy Lake used six photographic self-portraits as a canvas for a critical and grotesque exploration of gender roles. After neutralizing her appearance by applying a layer of white, she progressively covered the photographed faces with makeup. In other words, she “painted” her image to conform to the standards of female beauty imposed by society. Lake represents femininity as a construct while blurring the line between self-representation and fiction. This work can be linked to the wave of feminist ideas and battles that marked the 1960s and 70s.


Suzy Lake uses photography, performance, video and drawing to construct a complex investigation of identity issues. Nearly always staging herself, the artist employs makeup, costumes and darkroom techniques (like stretching negatives) to transform her image. In this way, she casts constant doubt on the authenticity of self-representation. Her decidedly conceptual work relies on sequences and repetition to reveal the implications of power relations in the construction of self. Lake’s artistic production is in ongoing conversation with her political engagement through social protest movements.

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