Beauty in Black %26 White


Conflicted about the power of beauty as well as its burdens, Houston-raised artist Rachel Hovnanian created the narrative photographic vignettes that appear on this month%26#8217;s cover and on these pages. She has become one of the most chattered-about talents working in New York today. Her newest series, %26#8220;Too Good to Be True,%26#8221; forces the viewer to define beauty and the price we%26#8217;ll pay for it.

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Rachel Hovnanian%26#8217;s "Suburbia," 2010
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Rachel Hovnanian%26#8217;s%26nbsp; work ranges from sculpture to drawing, narrative photographic studies to massive oils on canvas that focus on false ideals, coupled with our societal aspirations to attain a flawless fa%26#231;ade. Her %26#8220;Too Good to Be True%26#8221; series of 33 black-and-white photographs, shown here and on the cover, juxtaposes stiff trophy figurines %26#8212; beauties with satin sashes and bouquets dipped in ghostly white plaster %26#8212; with Lilliputian scenes of dollhouse furniture starkly painted flat white. Each vignette, theatrically confined in a suppressive space, is paired with a cheeky title that perfectly punctuates the thought expressed in the frame. For instance, No Prenup depicts a pretty young trophy wife poised atop her four-poster bed, surrounded by high-end shopping bags, while her balding, older husband stands at the foot. Casting doubts, aspersions? You be the judge.%26nbsp;%26nbsp;%26nbsp;

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Rachel Hovnanian%26#8217;s "Dining Table," 2010
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Dining Table illustrates the space that%26#8217;s grown between the trophy wife and her mate, with each seated at opposite ends of a table that must seat 24. In Beauty and the Doughnuts, a more voluptuous version of the perfect size-0 beauty queen, her hips and bottom engorged from her weakness for sweets, gazes longingly at a glass case filled with doughnuts, cookies and pastries.%26nbsp;%26nbsp;%26nbsp;

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Rachel Hovnanian%26#8217;s "Chaos to Bliss in One Day," 2010
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Asked what inspired her newest series of photographs, Hovnanian replies, %26#8220;It speaks directly to how I feel about a variety of self-worth issues women face. Beauty plus status equals celebrity. Celebrity is coveted and is no longer an American export; it%26#8217;s a global issue. In my work, I prefer to refrain from judgment. Some might be amused, some might be incensed, and hopefully everyone feels something.%26#8221;%26nbsp;%26nbsp; %26nbsp;Take a look past the public persona, the pretty faces and ask, as Hovnanian has: Is it perfection attained or too good to be true?
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Rachel Hovnanian%26#8217;s "Beauty and the Doughnuts," 2010
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Rachel Hovnanian%26#8217;s works are available through Collette Blanchard Gallery, New York City. In December, this exhibition of narrative studies printed on watercolor paper will be on view at Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago. Hovnanian%26#8217;s previous works have been exhibited with Meredith Long %26amp; Company, Houston, and were represented by Jason McCoy, Inc., at the Dallas Art Fair. Information rachelhovnanian.com.
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Rachel Hovnanian%26#8217;s "No Prenup," 2010
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Rachel Hovnanian%26#8217;s "Close Shave," 2010
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Rachel Hovnanian%26#8217;s "Blood Stain Remover," 2010
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Image at top: Rachel Hovnanian%26#8217;s "I%26#8217;ll Just Do It Myself," 2010
Image below: Rachel Hovnanian%26#8217;s "White Dress and Matching Appliances," 2010
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