Seeing the Picture: Vagaries of Fashion

The Marriage of Freak show AND fashion statement

As pointed towards generally in yesterday’s post, one of the most artistic of Chris Jordan’s images (borrowing its framework entirely from Seurat’s day-in-the-park painting) uses images of the 106k aluminum cans of pop-and-beer consumed (then mostly tossed out car windows from what I see along our roadside) in the US every 30 seconds. This, as I said yesterday, is a mind-grabbing method of making a point.

But as easily distracted as I am (I prefer to think of it as infinitely curious) I was drawn to the elephantine derriere of the parasoled woman, thinking at first “how grotesque”, then realizing she was wearing a bustle, then thinking “how grotesque.”

A fashion statement of the Victorian era, the “highly idealized representations of female sexual identity, at once exaggerated and concealed by the structures of adornment. A notable comparison is with the exaggerated images of the South African woman known as “Hottentot Venus” exhibited throughout Europe in the first part of the 19th century” for whom the rear was not the only exaggerated part.

Said Black Venus and her South African female sisters carry a genetic trait called Steatopygia (Maggie, our black childhood baby sitter in Birmingham who we loved dearly said generally of black folk: “We high in the back”) and somehow this odd human form was at the same time a freak-show feature and a fashion statement. I guess things really haven’t changed all that much, come to think about it, after an unfortunate incidental viewing of MTV recently. Oy.

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Published by fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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4 Comments

  1. I saw yesterday about emplants and the most popular BY FAR among blacks was to increase their fannies as large as the surgeon could.

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