[caption id="attachment_7368" align="aligncenter" width="900"] 'a modern hallucination' // from the Joyce II series[/caption]
Today in place of my regular beauty post, I want to introduce you to a young artist who is using her photography -- and her tendency toward the satirical -- to explore what she calls "artificial femininity." Through her cheeky, dramatic, and sometimes unsettling self-caricatures, Juno Calypso explores and questions the aesthetics of modern beauty.
[caption id="attachment_7370" align="aligncenter" width="900"] 'artificial sweetener' // from the Joyce II series[/caption]
In case you're wondering, that's Juno in these photos. She began her Joyce I & II series as a joke to give her friends a laugh; but the character of Joyce began to have a greater purpose. Through Joyce, Juno seems to be examining the kitschy, pastel packaging of femininity: "Joyce appears alone, consumed by artifice. Her glazed appearance [acts] as a mirror to the exhaustion felt whilst bearing the dead weight of constructed femininity."
I was immediately enamored with Joyce, so I reached out to her creator; Juno was kind enough to answer a few questions about her photos and the creative process behind them.
Katie Evans: Among your works, which is your favorite and why?
Juno Calypso: I have a soft spot for ‘12 Reason’s You’re Tired All The Time’. It was a very surreal experience staying in that pink bedroom and making those pictures. I think I took that on the third night at about five in the morning when I was on the verge of giving up. I changed into a white beaded wedding dress and put on a plastic mask and suddenly all the textures in the image melted into each other.
[caption id="attachment_7367" align="aligncenter" width="900"] '12 reasons you're tired all the time' // from the Joyce II series[/caption]
I’d been waiting to use that mask in my work for a long time as well. People always think I made it up but it’s a real beauty product called ‘The Linda Evans Rejuvenique Facial Toning System’, with all these gold metal pins on the inside that are supposed to send pulses through your face and make you look younger, but it’s more like a medieval torture device, in beige.
KE: What inspired you to begin working in self-portraiture? Was that a natural decision, or one that was unnerving at any point? Do you feel extra exposed on this side of the camera?
JC: I’d always taken pictures of myself in private, but it was only during university that it slipped into my ‘real’ work. I reckon when I started the project my confidence must have been running high because I don’t remember feeling uncomfortable at all. Since then I've felt very exposed by my work at times. You get to see some awful pictures of yourself while shooting and those can really ruin your day, but once I've worked for a long time on an image - with layers of fake hair, costumes, masks, make-up and digital manipulation, it doesn't feel like me at all anymore.
[caption id="attachment_7374" align="aligncenter" width="900"] 'popcorn venus' // from the Joyce II series[/caption]
KE: In both of your Joyce series, she seems to be a very complicated character—a mixture of comedy and tragedy in every photo. Tell us about Joyce. What’s her story? How did you come to embody her? And what sort of future do you have in mind for her?
JC: I’m glad that humour comes across. Comedy was the starting point of the project. During my photography degree I took some pictures of myself dressed up looking bored as a test - instead of using a model. I just wanted something funny to show my class the next day, but then it really grew from there and became ‘Joyce’. I didn't predict her arrival which is probably what made it work, so I try not to plan the exact future of the project, but allow room for more surprise.
[caption id="attachment_7373" align="aligncenter" width="900"] 'massage' // from the Joyce I series[/caption]
KE: In your interview with Dazed and Confused, you say that Joyce “[hasn’t] given up yet but she’s definitely on the verge.” How, in your opinion, can women avoid feeling this type of pressure? And is it one that society impresses upon them, or that we assume upon ourselves?
JC: I wish I knew the answer to that. I’m still trying to figure it out myself. Humour has been a good antidote. And reading ‘The Beauty Myth’ by Naomi Wolf was very good too.
KE: While Joyce has been referred to as a caricature, how sincerely does she actually represent the struggles of the average woman? In other words, while her plight seems satirical (in an Amy-Sedaris-as-“Jerri Blank” way), is it actually more accurate than it may initially seem?
JC: I’m wary of describing Joyce as an accurate representation of women. Or even the average woman. Because there isn’t an average woman, just an idea of one. I didn’t set out to represent the struggle of all women, but to just record my own experience of it - how do I feel under the weight of all these artificial enhancements? How detrimental and exhausting can it be trying to construct the perfect self-image? I wanted to explore artificial femininity and exaggerate it to the point of absurdity. When people tell me they relate to her it’s an extremely rewarding outcome, but not a planned one. Loneliness, boredom, frustration and exhaustion are common universal emotions, and maybe that’s why the images have come across as accurate.
[caption id="attachment_7376" align="aligncenter" width="900"] 'reconstructed meat slices' // from the Joyce II series[/caption]
KE: Can you describe a real-life personal experience that inspired you to explore femininity in this way?
JC: The length of time it used to take me to get ready before going out was definitely a starting point. I had a pretty serious routine that I could spread over hours or even days before a night out. Exfoliate that day, fake tan the next day, clip in my hair extensions that morning, an hour on make-up then spray hairspray on my face to stop it sliding off. It could be fun, but I also remember feeling overwhelmingly trapped by my own routine.
[caption id="attachment_7372" align="aligncenter" width="900"] 'disenchanted simulation' // from the Joyce II series[/caption]
KE: What makes you feel like your most beautiful, confident self?
JC: Good hair, a good outfit, a few drinks.
Well: can't really argue with her on that one.
Juno lives and works in London and has exhibited internationally with group shows in London, Miami and New York. Her work has been featured in The Sunday Times Magazine, Time Out, Wonderland, Dazed & Confused, and The Huffington Post, amongst many others.
Thanks for reading luvvies. Now make Joyce proud and go put on some lipstick.
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