Everything You Ever Wanted and More
March 2nd through 10th, 2016
Closing Reception: Thursday, March 10th, 6pm to 9pm
The Bolsky Gallery / Otis College of Art and Design
9045 Lincoln Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90045
To be read aloud:
“Tell me what you want me to be, how you want me to be. I can be that! I can be anything. You tell me, Nicky.”
--Gena Rowlands as Mabel, “A Woman Under the Influence”
Heaven is a place where Billie Holiday is played on vinyl, books and magazines are stacked to the knee, cigarettes are smoked on fire escapes, one is paid in dresses, and clothing racks are arranged--as they always should be--by era. I worked there the year before high school. The job mostly consisted of dusting, some light mending, and devoting myself entirely to the study of personal style. The development of taste, especially as it relates to categorizing “good” and “bad” taste, is an empowering pursuit. Taste that develops into ideology. I based my aesthetics (still do, mostly) on camp: the exaggerated and the humorous, larger-than-life sexuality, and a bit of the irreverent. Nostalgia also seems to factor strongly, maybe as a protest of the present (though the past was incredibly fucked), or perhaps because there is a revealing truth--wonderful to some and offensive to other--about wearing a dead person’s clothes. Around this time, we were given a class assignment to write about our hero. I chose Coco Chanel. Not because of her “good” taste, but because she wore pounds of costume jewelry to the market, lied till her death about her personal history, and cut off a duchess’ jacket sleeve mid-lunch at the Ritz, so appalled was she by its ill-fitting armhole. Attitude is everything when it comes to style.
Everything You Ever Wanted and More explores the concept of the feminine as it relates to fantasy. The aspiration to be an archetype. The desire to be a dream girl. A promise that you can have--and more importantly be--anything you want in America if you play your cards right. The possibility to erode and fabricate oneself into a bigger and better version for the camera, if only one’s own. The reality that fake is just as good. Jean Harlow, Marilyn Monroe, Anna Nicole, Heidi Montag…where to begin on the fetishization of Blondness in America? Blondness as an ideology. I explored it because it’s the shiniest penny, its more prevalent than ever, and because of feelings of personal jealousy. Sometimes it seems the entire pornification of womanhood could be distilled into a bottle of 40-volume Quick Blue bleach, but that would be ridiculous. Even so, the trappings of artificial beauty carry the potential for interchangeability, providing an artifice that allows women to step into constructed identities. There she goes again, encored by each generation with little alteration. She’s out on the streets again--in publicity, advertising, and movies--until it’s all just part of the landscape. This work is not moralistic, because that would be boring. Instead, it takes the opportunity to explore both a repulsion from artificial beauty and a celebration of it. A desire to turn oneself into a fantasy because of sexual promise and adulation. An honest attempt to expose a conflicted relationship with the performance of femininity, the power of influence it provides, and the reality of the status quo that it reaffirms.
“To consume a myth is to buy a package along with the salesman’s pitch.”
Amanda Benefiel grew up in the 80’s in a trashed Victorian mansion on an idyllic lake in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a university town where she found early inspiration in the art, rock, and punk scenes. Her Catholic school upbringing at St. Augustine’s, a McCarthy-era institution where she was often reprimanded for shortened hemlines and clashing views, was offset by time spent in the student ghetto--lovely sprawling houses, ramen noodles and Gibson guitars, the sustenance of her Kzoo generation--at least till the factory closed. Amanda received her BFA from Pratt Institute in NY and is currently completing her MFA at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. After a few years of wandering the world like a trash cat, she has landed in Santa Monica, where she currently works and resides.