An artist explores how plastic surgery will change the portrait you leave behind
January 10, 2012
Innovative artist Jonathon Yeo has done portraits of Tiger Woods, Paris Hilton, Sarah Palin and Nicole Kidman. Now, with the popularity of plastic surgery, Yeo has decided, “You’re Only Young Twice.” If you can catch his new exhibit at London’s Lazarides Gallery, you’ll see what he means.
Here’s his basic premise: As a portrait painter Yeo’s job is to read faces and try to work out what they are saying. Now, with people altering their faces through cosmetic surgery, these faces are harder to interpret. So, the artist’s job may change from painting someone and making it simply about them to using portrait painting to tell a story about our contemporary world. In other words, how do you portray a generation who has likely as not undergone plastic surgery?
For his plastic surgery project, Yeo wanted to avoid using celebrities as he had in the past, fearing that people would dismiss the paintings as attention-seeking. He told artinfo.com, Dec. 23, 2011, that he approached plastic surgeons to get subjects for his paintings. The question he asked them was, “What bodily areas are interesting and what bodily areas tell their stories best through painting?” As part of his project, Yeo actually went and observed some surgeries, but did not set up an easel in the operating theatre.
Yeo is angered by media coverage of plastic surgery because it always seems to judge one way or the other. Some coverage suggests, “It’s wrong, people shouldn’t be doing that, that’s cheating.” At the other extreme, there are those who say, “What could be better than looking ten years younger?” Yeo seeks to avoid either point of view. “The debate is a bit irrelevant ….the phenomenon is not going to go away.” Yeo wants to examine the consequences of plastic surgery growing so quickly. What does it mean for a portrait artist?
Each of Yeo’s paintings makes a point about a type of surgery or the mentality behind it. He is very grateful for his experience watching facelift surgery. Instead of making assumptions about how the face moves, he could see these muscles being pulled in different directions.
He is at the beginning of this project and is now especially fascinated by surgical techniques and the procedures people desire. For example, in the Far East, people go to Korea to get their eyes more Western-looking and in the Middle East they have their noses done. Yeo fears that cosmetic surgery may lead to a more homogenized look, ironing out racial differences. The bottom line is, when our grandchildren look at our portraits (or photos), will they still be able to see their genetic roots?
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body. ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.
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