Makeup as art
Photo credit: countrysoccer for iFunny

Article by Mary K. Nelson

“Makeup … has everything to do with [people] expressing to the world who they are or want to be seen as …” — A.P.

Back in August, an Algerian man sued his new wife for £13,000 ($20,000) because the morning after their wedding, he thought she was a thief. Having apparently never seen her sans makeup, the night before at the ceremony he found her beautiful, but the following morning after she’d washed it off, he felt deceived. The £13,000 was to cover the psychological suffering she’d inflicted upon his obviously fragile sensibilities. There’s a lot I could say about this man, but we’ll just leave it at this.

So how deceptive is makeup? How much does it cheat people out of the truth? And why do we feel this way?

I’ve spent thousands of dollars on makeup in the past couple of years. I know you want me to be kidding, but when you view makeup as art, why would you, as an artist, limit yourself to eight basic colors and inexpensive tools that simply get the job done? (Spoiler alert: you wouldn’t.)

Makeup as art
Photo copyright Daisyhead by Mary 2015

Makeup as art. It’s kind of a controversial ideology; no one wants to admit that something we’ve considered as a society to be superficial at best could possibly be a true art form. Isn’t it somehow offensive to the real artists of the world? The people who’ve put in the time and work to educate themselves, to express themselves through beautiful mediums, who learn color theory and the way light and shadow mingle together on a canvas, on film, in nature, on the human body. But what if it weren’t offensive? What if makeup were just as true an art form as any other? What if you knew makeup artists study many of the same subjects as other artists? My goal is to explore that, every other week, in this column.

A rather Instafamous makeup artist somewhat recently began the viral trend of #ThePowerOfMakeup. At the time of publication, the caption below her photo read, “[Makeup} … is a way for me to put my mind at rest and let my creativity flow. …” (@nikkietutorials) And if we’re going to be really honest (I believe I can speak for nearly all makeup artists when I say this), we certainly are not spending as much money and time as we are to look the same when we’re finished. In speaking to several makeup artists, beauty gurus, and women the past few days, I’ve discovered the same thread: makeup is for expressing oneself, to feel confident, to have a little fun, and it is unequivocally not for anyone else. (And in case you’re curious, my husband married me before I knew a thing about makeup, found me beautiful then, and has traveled with me on my art-filled journey, agreeing somewhere along the way that I do look better with makeup. I find no offense in this because it is, after all, true.)

There’s also something damaging in the consideration that women are somehow commodities to be bought and sold, that false advertising is something we are capable of in the first place. Regardless of whether I’m wearing false lashes or purple lipstick or, you know, eyebrows (mine are sparse, okay?), I remain the same person. I’m a sassy, college educated woman who runs her mouth off more often than not and feels a lot of feelings all of the time. And if we’re going to argue that makeup is false advertising, then we need to say the same about men’s facial hair, one’s personal sense of style, and hairstyles throughout history for both men and women. (Recently I was the makeup and hair designer for a musical, and the two men I asked to shave first argued that their facial hair keeps them from looking too fat — they’re hiding behind their beards, altering their appearance because they find it more pleasing. Just something to think about. And I made them shave anyhow.)

A fellow makeup Instagramer, Joy B., told me, “All throughout my teenage years and even through college, I thought it was a little silly that girls would spend so much time doing

Makeup as art
Ah makeup, you deceptive little bastard.

makeup. But I think part of it is that I didn’t realize how different makeup can be for a person. … Oftentimes other people misinterpret the use of makeup as a way to cover up, to hide, to pretend to be something you’re not. … I’ve come to realize makeup is a lot more about art and expressing yourself. [P]eople who say that anyone who wears makeup is fake or untrustworthy probably don’t understand what makeup can mean.” (To be completely frank, I’d just drop the mic and close my article here with a little slow clap, but my writing professor in college drilled into my brain to never close on someone else’s words, so blame him for my further extrapolation.)

The thing is, Joy is really spot on when it comes to why many women wear makeup in the first place (particularly those of the makeup artist variety, the women who go beyond a little foundation, mascara, and lip color). Someone once accused me of not loving myself enough, and that threw me because I remember what it was like to not love myself, which led to my spending as little time as possible on my personal appearance. It was a lost cause — not worth the time or effort. I look at myself differently these days, taking note of how beautiful my eyes can be (especially when the light catches them), how perfectly shaped my lips are. It took becoming a makeup artist to truly understand I was a beautiful individual and to feel comfortable in my own skin (I spend a lot of time without any makeup on at all — much of what I do is for social media, and then it is wiped off as soon as the last photo is taken).

I look forward to sharing with you the beautiful artistry I’ve discovered over the years, the kind that can take your breath away or leave you wondering how it was at all possible in the first place. Makeup as art — a concept that is not too difficult to believe when you really start to consider all the possibilities it holds, all the creative edges it gives an artist, and that self expression is never deceiving.

Makeup as art

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