For the past 3 years, I have been fascinated with magazine covers. The content that makes it to cover, and the intent behind that message.
Terry Richardson's aesthetic had always made me feel uncomfortable. As a huge Lady Gaga fan, I tried to ignore the fact that his images perpetuated the American Apparel type of "sexy" - one that is too close to child porn for its own good. Gaga herself has been a huge advocate for victims of sexual abuse and objectification. I refused to believe that she would collaborate so intimately with an artist that could hurt the group she championed. I realize now, that type of thinking is precisely part of the issue, and I now feel guilt for buying the book that they produced together. How could someone who I admired so much for representing sexual freedom collaborate not only with Terry Richardson, but also R.Kelly - both men known for being accused of preying on women and stealing the very same sexual freedom?
Then in 2014, the allegations from Anna de Gaizo broke - a former model for Richardson released her statement of being pressured unwillingly into sexual acts while on set for a shoot with him. In June of 2014 New York Magazine chose to put Richardson on the cover and ask the question - "is Terry Richardson an artist or Predator?" The article continues to praise Terry for his accomplishments, and painting the picture of the photographer as a victim of the media claiming he was a "vilified" man.
Callie Beusman from Jezebel says it best: "The question here shouldn't be whether Richardson is an artist or a predator. It should be why, when so many women have come forward with allegations, are we still treating this question like it matters?"
You may ask yourself why I would do a study of a mag cover that perpetuates this predator's criminality. The short answer is yes - this is very hypocritical. The long answer is harder to explain. First and foremost, this piece is just in my sketchbook and meant for my own personal collection. I have no plan to sell it, or even suggest it should hang on a wall in an exhibition promoting a man who has made a living preying on young women in the name of fashion. As I was creating this image, I anticipated the dark feelings I had towards what this man represents would come out. Instead it became something that was bright and vibrant in look and feel. This piece made me question my own belief systems, and face ownership of my part of the problem (which was precisely my intent).
This leads us to a bigger question - why the human brain is attached so fondly to things that harm it.... For all the negative reviews of Lena's Dunham's type of feminism, she approaches this question in one of the most skillful ways that I have yet to witness in her season 6 episode of Girls titled "American Bitch." The answer is not this simple, but Emily Nussbaum for the New Yorker isn't wrong when she proposes: "It’s a trap laid by a narcissist for another narcissist. Who among us can say we wouldn’t ever fall for one of those?"