For much of the world, a zit is something to be eradicated, a pimple covered up. Wrinkles, scars, bumps and blemishes of any kind are best hidden and hopefully obliterated, bringing the host of said flaws one step closer to physical perfection.
That being said, when have artists ever wanted to be like everybody else?
Rebecca Morgan Self Portrait Wearing My Favorite Scarf and Sweater/My Face The Fattest It's Ever Been, 2013 Oil and graphite on panel 14 x 12 inches
An exhibition at Invisible Exports, titled "Fetching Blemish," glorifies all your hairy moles, your chipped teeth, your discolored flesh and your ingrown toenail, too. The show features artists working in portraiture and figurative work that revel in our human defects, the various bloody, fuzzy, off-center things that make us who we are.
The group show explores physical deformities as manifestations of inner turmoil, ugliness as a crucial element of identification and self-horror as an opportunity for liberation and even transcendence.
Cindy Sherman Untitled #362 from the Hollywood/Hampton Types series 2000 color coupler print mounted on foamcore 27 x 18 inches 68.6 x 45.7 cm Edition 3/6 signed, numbered and dated 'Cindy Sherman 2000 3/6' (on the reverse)
The ecstatically grotesque exhibition features work from emerging names like Genieve Figgis and Rebecca Morgan alongside beloved artists Cindy Sherman and Nicole Eisenman. It's also a female-heavy roster, which we don't mind one bit.
Rebecca Morgan's self portraits funnel the artist's visage through a Robert Crumb-style funhouse mirror, ballooning her flaws into hypnotic aberrations, turning the figurative portraits into a caricature's freakish cousin. Queen of glamorous self-contortion, Cindy Sherman dons the disguise of a gnarled Hollywood vamp, skewing her appearance just beyond recognition. And Celeste Dupuy-Spencer's oil paintings, straddling figuration and abstraction, muddle brushstrokes and human flesh, rendering murky visions of swamp girls and pizza delivery men that feel like half-remembered visions of a dream you're desperately trying to forget.
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer Phoenicia Pizza Teen Oil on canvas 24 x 18 inches
The artists on view vary in generation, medium and style -- though all consider themselves outsiders in some sense of the word. Their work often reacts to the dominant contemporary culture, which claims to accept and cherish difference, and hold the importance of self-acceptance and self-love above all else.
Yet, as Invisible Exports explains, "To many, those shibboleths are a foreign language, a small consolation and perhaps even an affronting falsehood -- offering a narrative of full-inclusion that is so basically at odds with the lived intimate experience of otherness, no matter the cultural conditions, it can only be, for all its political virtue, an inert impersonal mantra and expressive nonstarter (and therefore its own kind of otherness). Ugliness is a much murkier, more enriching stew."
Amy Sedaris Archival pigment print 2 x 2 inches Edition of 10
"Fetching Blemish" runs until February 15 at INVISIBLE-EXPORTS in New York. The other artists on view include Wolfgang Black, Nicole Eisenman, Genieve Figgis, Dan McCarthy, Aurie Ramirez and Amy Sedaris. Get a heavy helping of pretty ugly in the artworks below.