Lamya Gargash, representative of the inaugural UAE Pavilion during the 2009 Venice Biennale, unveils a new body of work that addresses societal notions of beauty, intimate perceptions of self and identity through a portrait series at The Third Line.  Influenced by such artists as Cindy Sherman, the photographs aspire to raise challenging and important questions about self-reflection and criticism in relevance to media representation of body image and beauty standards in today’s society.

Through the Looking the Glass investigates how we constantly view ourselves in comparison to an ever elusive standard, prompted by the constant bombardment of media imagery dictating ‘how we should look’. Minor defects become drastic, resulting in even more drastic measures undertaken to reach that ideal standard of beauty. Our self perception, and subsequently our identity, becomes indistinct; as if viewing ourselves through a distorted looking glass.

The photographic series comprises of diptychs, with one panel depicting a portrait of the subject as seen by the world, and an opposing panel depicting the subject as seen through their mind’s eye. The project which has taken close to two years to complete, was facilitated by the use of artificial prosthetics; slight imperfections, which are accentuated and most times magnified, to a scale equivalent to that haunting mental image of self-judgment. The viewer is allowed into the photographed subject’s subconscious, sharing their most confidential vulnerabilities and insecurities.

The quest for physical perfection is an age old endeavour, and continues to be our primary concern today – Through the Looking Glass , according to Gargash is “an extension of constant self-critique and perpetual state of anxiousness over attaining perfection”. The works reveal the classic social paradox of seeking ideal beauty: we are all troubled by it, yet still constantly judge each other. As such, Gargash chose everyday people as her photographed models to evoke a collective and humanitarian sentiment; an invitation to raise awareness and accept ourselves, and each other, the way we are.

This project was possible thanks to the generous funding by Emirates Foundation. Their continued support of arts and culture has helped promote and nurture creativity, particularly among young women and men from the UAE who strive to create a dynamic platform for the arts in the region.

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