Edge

Ellen Gallagher: Murmur and Deluxe

Some 60 pictures-old advertisements from the magazines Our World, Sepia and Ebony-are in horizontal lines, framed on a white wall, and they are art.

Contemporary art seems to be something already made by prior artists, or in this case, advertisers-just changed, manipulated-and it’s called in publicity statements, “transformation.” Although this could just be laziness or a lack of creativity on the part of the artist, it’s effective in Ellen Gallagher’s work, Murmur and Deluxe, showcased in the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, from Feb. 12 to March 27.

The changes Gallagher makes to these 1930s to1970s advertisements exaggerate the inflated claims that advertisements so often make, i.e. “lose thirty pounds in thirty days!”, “maybe it’s Maybelline” that made that model so beautiful (or, sad to say, maybe it’s just good genes). The meanings and statements she makes about society and women are comically intelligent.

Gallagher seems to have some sort of obsession with the vanity women ascribe to themselves based upon the quality of their hair. We’ve all witnessed, or in my case, have been the one to cry, as we watch those locks come shimmying down the seat to lay useless on the floor of the hairdresser until the teenage employee sweeps it away.

In “Wish-Whish, Whisk,” three framed paper cutouts of an iguana like creature (but without legs) on paper circumscribe three different portraits which use a similar technique of black-faced women with different hair styles ranging from grotesque (the hair encircling their face) to the beautiful (it flows in the wind dramatically).

Gallagher is also interested in the other ways in which women frantically attempt to improve their appearance; she confronts the question, “why do we believe ads which claim to, with the help of their products, improve our appearance, help us get great looking friends to match our great looking selves, and improve basically at life all with one measly eight-dollar bottle of face wash?”

In the Bad Skin advertisement, the advertisers claim that their cream is “Advice for Bad Skin-externally caused.” The faces in the advertisement have been covered by Gallagher in a blue paint with their lips highlighted in bright red pout. The blurb below the outlandish claim which explains how the cream works has all the words whited out except for the letter o, then 00,000 women is shown until at the end it states a “money back guarantee”, ensured if the customer is unhappy with the results of the product.

Gallagher’s exhibit is a useful implementation of the common theme throughout contemporary artists of modifying existing media. Through her changes, the exaggerated claims of the advertisements appear absurd. She effectively makes a comment on the unbalanced priorities of society that endorse the marketing of products that will tell a customer that they will lose 100 pounds, just a pill a day.

By modifying the advertisements, Gallagher makes the viewer see the absurdity of such claims, or why we even think that thinness or beautiful, blonde hair is so important or so much better than what we have already, which is natural and complementary to who we are.

Melanie Klesse can be contacted at m.klesse@umiami.edu

March 4, 2005

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Wednesday: ▪ The Canes find themselves in the mix for a couple o ...

It was May 2015, and the Miami Herald was reporting for a feature on high school football players ab ...

Deidrick Stanley had his eye on the Miami Hurricanes long before his hometown school finally offered ...

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Tuesday: ▪ UM has only two Rivals.com five-star recruits on the ...

Even five months ago, it would’ve been hard to picture Jaylan Knighton winding up with the Miami Hur ...

The 2019 NFL draft begins tonight from Nashville, Tennessee, and continues through Saturday with sev ...

The final concrete slabs for the 25 interconnected buildings of the newly named Lakeside Village are ...

A former UM professor started a company dedicated to publishing books on African-American culture, h ...

A group of School of Architecture students visited the Caribbean nation to learn about the historic ...

Faculty with the Miller School of Medicine and Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science w ...

Estela Perez-Somarriba of the Miami women's tennis team won ACC Player of the Year for the seco ...

Sophomore Adria Soriano Barrera earned second team accolades for the second straight season, while f ...

Miami and adidas today unveiled the first-ever baseball jerseys made from Parley Ocean Plastic. ...

Michael Amditis tied a career-high with three hits and a homer to help the #24 Canes sweep FIU. ...

Miami earns sixth seed in Cle Elum Regional, hosted by the University of Washington. ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.