Monday, 7 December 2009

Is it art? Part 2

Lots of people have plastic surgery, but some people insist on taking it to extremes. For instance, Joan Rivers looks like an alien struggling to get her human disguise to fit, whereas Jocelyn Wildenstein has turned herself into a one-size-fits-all punchline. Whenever a picture of them appears in the press, you can guarantee that someone will pop up and diagnose them with body dysmorphia.

Blame Lolo Ferrari - by turning herself into an 11 year-old grafitti artist's depiction of womanhood, she inadvertently introduced the world to the psychological disorder. As a result, anyone who goes under the knife more than a couple of times is instantly damned with dysmorphia-by-proxy.

Like anorexia and bulimia, it's a mental condition that manifests itself in a pathological disappointment with one's appearance. It's hardly surprising that many people were keen to diagnose Michael Jackson with dysmorphia too, given that he rearranged his face the way most people try out a different haircut.

But maybe Michael wasn't as unhappy about his appearance as we all thought he was - it turns out he actually wanted to look like that. Even if it meant he had the eyes of a cartoon bear and a nose that only existed in two dimensions.

In the last few days, Michael's collection of artwork has been revealed to the world, and it's a sight to behold. In the last ten years he commissioned a host of paintings, depicting his idealised self in a variety of poses. It's enough to make Jarvis Cocker's head spin.

As well as being portrayed as a superhero and King Arthur, Michael appears in one painting as a bizarre cross between Michelangelo's David and Botticelli's Birth of Venus. Surrounded by floating porcelain-skinned cherubs, the tastefully draped King of Pop shows off some pretty impressive pecs and abs that Peter Andre would kill for. And although there's only a swathe of muslin between Michael's groin and a crowd of naked children, there's absolutely no sense of predatory sexuality.

No doubt people will be falling over themselves to condemn Michael's lack of taste (and possibly clothing), but is it really that shocking? After all, Michael may have paid up to $150,000 for the portrait, but all he's done is what countless thousands of people do every day. The only difference is that they do it in those 'pose as a cowboy' photo studios, or by sticking their heads through a crudely cut hole in a cartoon of fat people in Victorian bathing gear. Different strokes, different folks.

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