Star Photo by Dan Janisse
Like a modern-day Dr. Frankenstein, artist Mark Laliberte has pieced together a collection of exotic, erotic, eerie women. His show New Beauty Constructs, at the Common Ground Gallery, features a collection of 40 faux females — all collages of images collected from magazines and photocopied to add more distortion to the end result.
"It's paper collage but the images are designed to look like my photography," says Laliberte, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in fine arts from the University of Windsor five years ago and now runs Common Ground. "I'm primarily a photographer and I'm interested in photographic expressions that are commonplace in society. But I turn them into something different."
"There are different photocopiers in town I like to use for certain effects. So the photocopier was my tool."
With only a speck of colour here and there, the black-and-white images — all framed and matted in black — gaze back at the viewer with a come-hither-if-you-dare stare. At first glance, the works look like photographs, and rather sexual ones. A combination of fashion photography and S&M magazine fare, with all manner of bras and bustiers and lingerie and nudity. Not to mention zebra stripes and Statue of Liberty crowns and masks and hoods and deformities. You can't help but wonder if the whip is hiding just out of sight. On close inspection, however, the work explodes into visual shrapnel, arresting bits and pieces of pictures and designs torn from newstands and glued into place. Laliberte's mind is Frankenstein meets Frederick's of Hollywood. His hand is Hawkeye Pierce: have scalpel will travel.
In fact, Laliberte hopes to shop New Beauty Constructs around to other galleries (he has shown before in Chicago, Seattle, Toronto and Edmonton), given that it's his biggest exhibition in terms of body of work, and perhaps expense.
He started creating the series in 1995, though the bulk of it was assembled in 1999 and 2000. Some 50 works later (10 didn't make the Common Ground exhibit for lack of space), New Beauty Constructs is both an homage to the female form as pop culture icon and a criticism of it — including the cosmetic surgery it spawns.
"This series is made up completely of appropriated imagery, using fashion photography, magazines, pornography, pictures of the female form in all ways," he says. "The female as a model of display is probably the most common photographic image of our time. So I use it as a starting point to create these new personas, to merge the source material into unique images." Often dozens of sources are ripped and shredded before coming together as one adult cartoon, but always with a twist. Odd shapes, noses, arms, bodies come alive in New Beauty Constructs, with a bizarre sexual tinge.
"I tried to pose the figures as if I were posing a real model," Laliberte says. "It's like a male game of paper dolls."