The Mouths of Four Gorgons (2014) (photo by Shinji Otani)
The Mouths of Four Gorgons (2014) (photo by Shinji Otani)

Jacquette challenges power of consumerism

By Ghada Emish ’19

Tags a+e

In the contemporary age, visual representation is the primary way people receive information. Some advertisements focus on creating a fantastical aura to produce resonant campaigns for their products. Visual attraction to lavishly advertised products tricks people into consuming products that they do not necessarily need. This Saturday, Feb. 18, is the opening of the exhibition Unrequited and Acts of Play at the Wellin Museum. The works in this exhibit, by the American artist Julia Jacquette, have vibrant colors and a glossy texture which echo the alluring, yet misleading appearance of some advertisements. 

The title “Unrequited” refers to the un-gratifying effect of extravagant advertisements. Although the level of luxury in such adverts is unrealistic and unattainable, it can be hard to resist the tempting aura of some advertised products. Yet, when people obtain these products, they achieve no sense of fulfillment. Essentially, advertisements drive people to consume products that ultimately leave us feeling unfulfilled and unhappy. In this sense, the attraction to luxurious products remains “unrequited.” 

Some advertisements feature attractive details, such as the wall lamp in Hotel Room (Sleeve), to create an aura of elegance so that the advertised products appear more alluring. The Mouths of Four Gorgons shows pictures of a female’s open mouth. A gorgon is a grotesque creature therefore making it contradictory to the attractive appearance of female lips. In fact, the paintings in Four Gorgons have been  made to appear ideal with the use of special effects. However, such pictures drive people to seek a similar appearance—a desire that exercises an unpleasant influence on them since it is an unrealistic goal. 

Jacquette sheds light on the romanticization of liquor in some advertisements and films. Colors from Wine, White is a color wheel which demonstrates the colors in a picture of a glass of white wine. The color wheel reveals that there are more colors than one might expected in a picture of a wine glass. To offer the audience a meditative comparison between glasses as they appear in advertisements and the color wheel, Colors from Wine, White is juxtaposed with works featuring wine glasses. This comparison illustrates the palette of colors used in the advertising of alcohol to make it more visually appealing than it is in real life. 

It is worth mentioning that Jacquette collaborated with Hamilton students on creating two murals, Swimming Pool Water (Hand) and Swimming Pool (Reflections of Palm Trees). These works elaborate on the fanciful, unrealistic nature of representing water in advertisements. 

Since the beginning of its opening in 2012, the Wellin Museum has focused on picking artists who are invested in engaging with the educational community at Hamilton. Artists such as Yun Fei Ji have attended different classes to elaborate on the content of their work. This semester, Jacquette will provide studio critique for senior art projects. Unrequited and Acts of Play is Jacquette’s first solo show. The Wellin Museum remains committed to featuring underrepresented and showcasing art that is not displayed enough. 

By separating these unrealistic pictures from their commercial context, Jacquette enables her audience to contemplate the influence such images have on them. This practice should instill awareness regarding the way people receive visual content from the media on a daily basis. 

Visual art is an integral part of modern culture and it is critical to constantly educate ourselves on the methods employed to influence viewers. In this sense, Unrequited and Acts of Play definitely functions as an educative and analytical tool of visual culture.

All A&E