"What do you see when you look in the mirror?"
That's the question Orlando-based artist SKIP and his fiancée, photographer Tasha Copley, ask in their new art installation, "FRANCHISE: The Ideal Woman." The installation consists of two photographs, one showing Copley marked up by plastic surgery "guidelines" in preparation for transforming her body into the "ideal," and another showcasing Copley's natural beauty and comfort in her own skin. The images are accompanied by a box in which viewers can share what they see when they look in the mirror, and what they find beautiful about themselves. Some of these contributions are included below.
(Some images below may be considered NSFW.)
SKIP's interest in body image stems from his own struggles with self-esteem.
"For me up until my early twenties I believed I was just a collection of 'too' many things," he told The Huffington Post in an email. "I was too thin, I was too pale, I was too short, my ears were too big and my legs were too hairy. For a good chunk of my life I think I really just hated most of the things I saw when I looked in the mirror."
Recognizing the extreme pressures women in particular face to be beautiful, SKIP decided to feature a female body in the installation. Believing that low self-esteem "absolutely stands in the way of true self-love and acceptance," SKIP paired up with Copley to create artwork that questioned the ideal, celebrated the untouched female body, and asked viewers to question their own ideas of beauty.
A comment left by a viewer of the installation.
"I have always felt very strongly about promoting positive body image and self-esteem, so this definitely was the perfect project for us to work with each other," Copley told HuffPost. "As a woman who has had a child, I experienced a huge transformation in my body from pre-pregnancy to post-pregnancy... After having a baby –- a very large baby –- you are forced to relearn your body all over again, inside and out."
For Copley, the dichotomy of the two images is ultimately empowering: "In a way the right side of the installation represents how I see myself set against a world of supermodels and a perceived idea of what beauty is, and the left side is how I actually feel about myself when stripped away -– a strong, confident, sexy woman."
Being photographed and displayed has helped Copley accept and love her body, she told HuffPost.
"Ultimately, letting go of my insecurities and presenting all of my 'flaws' to the public -– and now the world –- became a cathartic and empowering experience. There is nothing left to be embarrassed by because I have nothing left to hide."
Another comment left by a viewer of the installation.
The pair report that reactions to the installation have mostly been "overwhelmingly positive and emotional." Unfortunately, the installation was vandalized while on display at the Orlando City Arts Factory last month.
"That discovery was definitely a harsh pill to swallow, but the response from the local and online community was overwhelming and their donations and financial support allowed us to reprint the life-sized photos of the installation for potential future viewings in other cities and wider audiences," SKIP told HuffPost.
The duo hope that their installation will make viewers question their attitudes towards their own bodies. They told HuffPost:
A lot of this “ideal” that is being pushed out in the world of photoshopped supermodels and suntans and celebrities all stem from people just not being honest with themselves and with each other. And that is something we’d really like to see change in time.