Rachel Feinstein, the Artist Exploring the Power of Female Beauty

Rachel Feinstein, the Artist Exploring the Power of Female Beauty

In her latest exhibit, the artist questions feminine power.

In her latest exhibit, the artist questions feminine power.

Text: Nadja Sayej

New York artist Rachel Feinstein—famed wife of painter John Currin—unveils Victoria Secret's model hierarchy in her new exhibition which is now open at Gagosian Beverly Hills. The exhibition Secrets it challenges the Barbie-like beauty in the desirable beauty of the Victoria Secret catalogue.

Feinstein is premiering a series of new, life-size figures of women, which she says are inspired by the globalization of the "Victoria Secret phenomenon," where millions worldwide tune in to watch a lingerie runway show. Just as walking the lingerie runway has its own hierarchies—only the highest-ranking models are winged the Angels—there is silver lining to the fantasy, which the artist reveals. For example, the models are often deemed as "stars" shortly after walking for Victoria Secret, but their contracts have been noted to be limiting.

The artwork in this new exhibition taps into the intersection between luxurious excess, religious iconography and mass media. It also suggests how silly one lingerie company can make women look in their own bizarre fairytale themes; their models are dressed as butterflies, firebirds, ballerinas and snow queens. Here, feminine power is questioned in a series of clay sculptures which are modeled after standard Renaissance proportions.

While Feinstein is known for her fantasy-inspired sculptures that draw inspiration from fairytales, her artwork has inspired fashion, too—she had a collection devoted to her by Marc Jacobs in 2004, where she was photographed by Juergen Teller for the advertising campaign. Known or Edwardian-themed parties in her Gramercy Park home which she shares with husband, Feinstein is typically known for her ornate, Baroque sculptures which look as if they belong in the Palace of Versailles.

Here, the work takes a different angle, showing the flipside in a world that isn't always happily ever after. “I’ve always been interested in portraying some kind of fantasy, then showing that it’s completely constructed,” said Feinstein. “There are always dark messages hidden behind beauty, and the act of sculpting is about listening to that inner voice that warns you about something lurking beneath the surface.”

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