I am struck by the centrality of the Venus figure throughout the complicated Western canon and its enduring influence across the social media screenscape. At the meeting of technology and art history, I examine the relationship between self-surveillance and feminine archetypes enmeshed in the Venus pudica tradition. I rethink the bathing goddess’s gestures and the anticipated voyeuristic gaze—represented in my work as the smartphone camera lens. There is a reverence for “techne” in my formal approach that redoubles this investment in art history. I employ traditional oil painting techniques to render virtual space, and further unpack how Internet culture remodels the visual language of femininity. A hollow, standalone avatar emerges across my paintings. Plastic and malleable, seductively painted. She is glued to the screen, her iPhone a phantom limb. I look to women artists critical of the collective pressure to “put your best face forward,” from Orlan’s performances of plastic surgery to Cindy Sherman’s Instagram page. Living in a society where the pressures of “la bella figura” pervade, the battle over the female body has become the material meat of my work. Painting is a way for me to navigate the distance between the bodily self and social media façade. Wading in this space between helps me better understand what it means to be a woman and artist in our hyperbolic world of retouching apps and reality TV.
Isabelle McCormick (b. 1992) is a painter from St. Paul, Minnesota. She is a graduate of the Brown University | Rhode Island School of Design Dual Degree Program, where she studied Literary Arts and Painting. Isabelle has served as the Resident Fellow for the RISD European Honors Program in Rome, Italy. She has worked in Museum Education and Public Programs at The San Diego Museum of Art, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Isabelle has exhibited nationally in New York, Detroit, Providence, Minneapolis, and San Diego, as well as abroad in Italy, Greece, and Lebanon. Her first solo show is slated for October 2021.