One hundred and eighty six

Andy Warhol, Altered Image

1981 by Christopher Makos
Brooklyn Museum of Art, makos.artistmanager.net

Makos photographed Warhol many times, producing a whole series of ‘Altered Image’ photos. In these, with various poses and outfits, Makos dressed Warhol up as a woman, as an altered image of himself. The two collaborated frequently, playing effectively through the medium of their friendship. Makos’s transformation of Warhol goes right from the striking and perfectly applied make-up, to the style and approach to the photograph itself. Warhol’s eyes are meticulously pencilled, individual eye lashes visible, with the brows risen to the expression of feminine surprise. The lips have the glow and fading blush of a luscious pout, and the blonde air, sprayed to a moulded wave at the side of the face, sits flawlessly. Yet, despite all this painted disguise, Makos holds Warhol to his alteration by colour and tone, his alabaster complexion held by the white of the background. The high-contrast exposure of the photograph only enhances this, every dark detail picked out, which is what makes the eyes quite so piercing. Here lack of tonal variation creates the flawless, often fake, facade of painted feminine beauty, as it bleaches out all imperfections. Interestingly, it is not the clothes that give Warhol away, though they do create the odd juxtaposition of a woman’s head on a man’s body, but it is the hands. Though they are clasped effeminately over the carefully angled leg, their naturally toned skin and veins cannot be hidden. They look awkward, the watch slipping down the sleeve, and it is these, more than anything else that creates the strongest and most poignant gender contrast.

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