By Katie Webb Arts & Entertainment Editor
Bound by ropes, head hanging limply to the side, no expression in his darkly rimmed eyes, model Denis Naymark hangs in the FORM gallery show “Murder She Wore.” Show debuted Tuesday, March 11 and open until Friday March 14.
The fashion photography industry has adopted a sinister obsession with “fake dead” that has been the center of controversy for many high-profile ads. The trend features gaunt women in eerie situations. Think Hitchcock protagonists, but more sickly-colored skin. Most recently receiving backlash, Marc Jacobs Spring 2014 campaign featured a zombie-like Miley Cyrus beside a lifeless female form.
“Murder She Wore” is a direct response to those criticizing the edgy art form.
“The show is meant to blur the line between fine art and fashion, as well as graphic versus sinister,” said Alvia Urdaneta, photography major who created the show.
A playful date with death was meticulously plotted for each of her models down to the handcrafted special effect bruises and bludgeoning. The mesmerizing murder scenes are snapshots of men who were done-in by their lovers fashion accessories. This detail, shooting “fake dead” men, is a clever challenge raised to those who oppose the trend, viewing it as a threat to women.
Many speaking out against the fashion photography were also influential in banning Kanye West’s music video for “Monster,” from Youtube in 2011. The piece West described as performance art, much like Urdaneta’s work, was not intended to glorify violence, but an attempt to create shocking, striking visuals.
“It’s graphic, but they are amazing graphics, and what I appreciate about [“Monster”] is that before it there was nothing like this in hip hop or rap, no visuals like this,” said Urdaneta.
Urdaneta is quick to point out that Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi,” a video portraying highly stylized murder scenes was never banned. Perhaps, because Gaga herself is a woman, so what will viewers think of Urdaneta’s death-becomes-him images?
The 3-ft. tall prints are tongue-in-cheek. Urdaneta arranged seven death-by-fashion narratives. One man, was garroted then adorned with an Hermes scarf, another stabbed in the chest with Cartier earrings. One femme fatale fetched lipstick out of her purse, drew a target on her lovers back and fired a single bullet missing the mark, but leaving her lovely artwork intact.
Dan Caputo, a Hofstra alumnus and studio manager at Tom Sachs, was the chief makeup artist. Urdaneta conceived her murderous tales, and then Caputo brought them to grotesque reality. A painting major, Caputo translated his artistic talents to special affects makeup and prosthetics crafting.
“Growing up playing sports, I’ve seen a lot of bruises, weird as that sounds, so I’m just very familiar with what [bruises] look like and what colors they turn,” said Caputo.
After watching tutorials online, Caputo began practicing with special costume makeup palettes and sculpting prosthetics using clay, gelatin and plaster of Paris. The cuts are cringe inducing. The subtle maroon marks under the eyes complete the transformation from model to corpse. Horrifically realistic, the special effects elevate the narrative to a different level of gory glamour.
The show was most inspired by the work of Guy Bourdin, the French photographer known for creating narratives within his work and presenting just a snapshot of the story. Urdaneta crafted her own Bourdin style images, provocative and dramatic moments set against bold solid colored backgrounds.
Though the work of photographers like Bourdin and artists like West have caused extreme controversy, they have also broken barriers for the art world.
“Murder She Wore” and “fake dead” are wildly threatening, but not to women. Urdaneta’s art is no more dangerous than other cultural dark pleasure, like watching an episode of "Dexter." This type of art only threatens to break viewers out of safe, conventional forms of enjoyment. Urdaneta’s show only threatens the line that tries to seperate art and fashion.