Grotesque is often the last thing on one’s mind when glossing through the pages of a high fashion magazine. The majority of the time one is presented with digitally enhanced high-resolution images of beauties enlaced in the finest gowns with the latest cutting-edge designs. They are partnered with advertisement for the luxury products they promote and sell to the masses along with their definition of beauty. The shots can be breathtaking and transport the viewer to a different situation, landscape, or reality for a brief second. Yet, if one focuses enough time on the images, the stench of commercialism and capitalism packaged in aesthetic begins to leak and it is wafted in ones face the faster the pages are flipped. This awareness of the link between beauty and the disturbing is at the heart of Carlos Ochoa’s series Vogue: Interpreting the Grotesque.
Ochoa utilizes recycled pages from Vogue magazines to explore standards of beauty and the ironies of the high fashion and the designer photography industries. He does so by painting layers of deformities and monstrous additions to the models of the carefully crafted and stylized images. The Rio Grande Valley artist enhances the already processed pictures with extra eyes, gnarly teeth, tentacles and growths that protrude most often from the face of the subject with a disturbingly natural ease.
“In a lot of ways, they are portraits, but I’m using this foundation that has already been established which is this commercialism and by altering them, making them my own, it’s questioning the viewers perspective on it,” Ochoa explains, “It’s subjective always, you know, that is art. But in a lot of way it is also very confrontational because it is questioning what they have come accustomed to expecting.”
While the Valley artist confronts the viewer wholeheartedly through his grotesque imagery, he does so in the boundaries of prepackaged commercial splendor. Through this irony, the artist not only questions but expands the viewers notion of the high-end fashion aesthetic. Ochoa’s work goes beyond the image by manipulating the onlooker’s perception to underscore the critical message of the series. The entire act of defining, constructing, manipulating and enforcing beauty is grotesque.
In addition to the fifteen painted magazine print pieces Ochoa presents a bust of woman with flaps and protuberance covering her face. The series pièce de résistance no doubt is an allusion ancient Greece. The statue pushes the artists thesis by linking the aversion of contemporary beauty to history and time and states that this conundrum has been happening since ancient civilizations. It is exciting because it opens new conversations on the subject and leads one to believe that Ochoa will continue to explore this connection between beauty and the grotesque.
Vogue: Interpreting the Grotesque is on display at the STC Tech Library in McAllen, Texas until March 9th. Ochoa will be part of an Art Talk on March 2nd at 1 PM. Check out Neta’s artist video featuring the series and make sure to follow Carlos Ochoa on Instagram @total_faux_pas for more great work.