What Comes Next?

So, originally I had started this blog in conjunction with my senior year independent study for my studio art minor. However, I always intended it to go beyond that, which is why during the course of the independent study I did reflections on articles I found. However, it is now June, meaning my independent study is over, along with my college career.

A little update about where I’m at in life: I’ve moved to New York and am currently interning with a company that isn’t in the cosmetics industry. The decision to accept this position was difficult as I had always planned on entering right into the industry I wanted to be in. But, it proved harder to get a response back from most companies I applied to, so I accepted the internship position in the hopes of both learning something and making larger connections that could lead me into the cosmetics industry,

Ok, so that brings me to the big questions: what comes next. My plan with this blog is pretty simple. I want to continue writing reflections on articles and research I’ve found about the cosmetics industry and animal testing. I don’t want to say this will turn into a diary of ideas and intentions for myself when/if I decide to start my own company, but hopefully, in doing research and using this space as a form of reflection I will be able to dig deeper into certain feelings and intentions I have in regards to this industry. By doing so, I do hope to become more concise and clear with my own vision for my future in cosmetics and potentially one day be able to come out on the other side with methods and ideas that can benefit many. So, now I embark on the next journey in my life in the Big Apple.

Artist Statement and Exhibition Photos

The earliest known examples of animal testing date back to Early Greek physicians like Aristotle and Erasistratus. Since then, animals such as rats, rabbits, and guinea pigs have continuously been utilized for biomedical testing. These animals are selected because they all have biological similarities that mirror certain aspects of humans, including a similar immune system and follicle reactions to chemical compounds. Because of this, these animals are subjected to a myriad of tests in order to draw inferences between the way the animal reacts and how a human would react under the same conditions. It makes sense that certain industries, such as those involved in cancer research, continue to utilize animals over humans when working towards creating cures for diseases because it is drastically less dangerous to test on animals. However, there are some industries that have carried on using animals as test subjects for far too long.

One such industry is the cosmetics industry. It has been proven countless times that this industry, which generated $460 billion globally in 2014, has been using animals as test subjects for no reason for years. Not only have there been huge steps taken to develop cosmetic tests that remove the animal from the testing process, but the results yielded during these tests on animals do not hold any correlation when translated over into the human world. While the animals used do share some biological similarities that prove to be beneficial for biomedical research, it does not hold the same truth with cosmetics, as these are products created solely to be worn on the exterior of the human body and are therefore formulated specifically with this idea in mind. Nonetheless, there are still places across the globe that legally require companies to test on and abuse animals for results that have proven to be insufficient.

This series of three-dimensional works, entitled “Cosmeholics” applies packaging of cosmetic products currently on the market in order to open up a conversation about the unethical practices that exist within the beauty industry. The title for this series takes inspiration from the word “alcoholic,” which can be used to describe an individual who has an addiction to a substance they know is bad for them but that they are unable to quit. In this instance, this connotation is meant to imply that an individual has a problem that they are unable to quit – namely being a consumer who supports animal testing (whether they know it or not) but shows no signs of acknowledging the problem or stopping.  

With this series of works, viewers are meant to draw connections between the products they see displayed before them to what exists on the shelves of retail stores like Ulta and Sephora, but experience a sense of awkwardness as they interact and explore the works that on are a much larger scale than normal products. The larger scale also helps to amplify the text on each package, forcing the viewer to be confronted by words such as “corrosion” and “corruption,” urging them to take into consideration the actions taken against the animals during these testing periods. Viewers will come face to face with an inversion of what they thought to be correct the more they interact with what exists inside the packaging in order to create visceral reactions about the cruelties that exist in our society today for the promotion of beauty.

Cosmeholics is comprised of four different three-dimensional objects that are all representative of cosmetic products that have connections to the tests run within cosmetic animal testing. Each of the forms chosen draws direct inspiration from products on that market, in order to facilitate the viewers’ ability to make connections between the objects before them and the ones they may encounter in a retail store. This work recreates lipstick, mascara, foundation, and single eyeshadow packages because each of these items corresponds with eye and skin irritation tests that are run. When creating this work, I tried to keep the design elements as close to the original inspiration, while using synonyms of the product names utilized by the actual company so that viewers who have a knowledge of cosmetics may easily make the desired connections.

Of the four different works in this series, each one has at least one set of prints that was made on a neutral-colored paper, whether that be black or white. The use of neutral colors allows for the design elements to speak for themselves and is very representative of the sleek packaging utilized today by many cosmetic companies. The mascara package and the eyeshadow package of a series of prints that were printed on different colored paper, but with the same ink colors as the neutral prints. The use of different colors works to obscure some elements of each package, forcing the viewers to pick up the boxes to work with them closely in order to completely decipher what is being presented to them. Furthermore, this series was reproduced and displayed with multiple versions of each print to be indicative of an experience one might have in an actual retail store that sold cosmetics. In stores like Ulta and Sephora, products are not displayed alone but are rather displayed in bulk, which is what I worked to represent here. I wanted to fill the display space in a similar manner as the way shelves are filled with products so that viewers experience a slight sense of being overwhelmed with the amount of products while also filling the space to mimic a sense of enclosure, as the animals may feel while being trapped in the laboratories.

This series of objects works to exploit my knowledge of the practices within the beauty industry to create a series of objects meant to cause individuals to question their consumer habits and take a closer look at what their support of certain companies does for the advancement, or lack thereof, of ethical standards around the globe. My hope is that viewers will leave this exhibition more informed on the corrupt practices behind one of the largest global industries, and have a strong desire to make actual changes to their shopping patterns to help enact changes towards increasing more sustainable practices for the future of the beauty industry as a whole.

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Completed Work #4

These posts were originally meant to be “work in progress” posts, but that quickly fell apart because I started adopting a process where I would complete a series of prints and then immediately start the next series, saving the assembly process for the very end. This worked out great in terms of time, but meant that I wasn’t able to see if anything needed to be changed in a series, such as aligning text etc.

This is the final work that I created for my series, and is the largest to scale. The template for this box was printed on 16 x 20 paper, while the rest of the templates were printed on 11×17. I did this because this series is meant to represent a foundation package, and those are generally pretty large when compared to products like lipsticks, mascara, and eyeshadows. In order to keep with the idea of scaling up the boxes for my series in order to evoke a sense of awkwardness, 16×20 provided the best outlet to do so.

The final object in my series was foundation because of the multiple skin irritation tests they run on animals during the lab periods. This is the only series that does not have an object that goes inside of it for two reasons. One, I couldn’t think of anything that could correlate with this idea, and two there was just not enough time to accomplish everything I wanted to and make something to go inside these boxes. If I had more time to improve this work moving forward, I definitely think this is one area for improvement, especially since I found that during my exhibition people were able to connect what the packaging was supposed to be as a result of the objects that were inside of them.

For the design elements, I was once again inspired by the packaging of Urban Decay, especially because some of their products have results from clinical trials on them, which I really liked the idea of incorporating into my package designs. Much like the first series of works I created, this series was also only printed on black paper. I’m a very big fan of the color black, and really like the sleek and luxurious quality it has within cosmetics products and packages. Additionally, since it is such a neutral color it really allows the design and text to be the main focus on the package.

When decided what the name for this series should be, I used a thesaurus to find words similar to “decay” and was presented with the phrase “withering away.” I loved the visual imagery this phrase brings to an idea like animal testing because it puts an image into your head of animals slowly fading away as they are continuously exposed to different forms of cruelty.

The ingredients list on this package, until the mascara package, is just a normal ingredients list, to create a sense that this is just a normal package. However, one side of the box has “clinical trials” on it, much like some cosmetic companies have. Although instead of the information alluding to the success of the product inside during testing, the bullet points instead point out facts, gathered from personal research, about individuals’ consumer spending habits when it comes to beauty products and their knowledge of cruelty-free items, etc. The results to me were alarming, and I would hope that anyone who reads the package would be startled by this information as well, and take some time to reflect on their own consumer habits and how informed of a consumer are they when it comes to the supply chain of the products they use on a daily basis.

I wanted to keep the colors rather basic, with the purple of the geometric design being the most eye-catching part, while the gold on the sides of the box draw the viewers’ eye to read the information on the box instead of skipping over it like they might normally do while out shopping. The text for the ingredients and clinical trials did come out a tiny bit blury, so if I had the opportunity to work on this collection more I would definitely focus on choosing a font that was clearer to read.

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Completed Work #3

This is the third series of works I created for my final collection, and this is one that I struggled with quite a bit. When I was deciding what cosmetic products I wanted to incorporate into my work I began by looking at what tests are actually run on animals during cosmetics testing. A lot of the tests that are done involve the animal’s eyes and testing what happens when the chemicals come in contact with them. Since I already had planned to incorporate mascara into my work I thought eyeshadows would be the next step.

However, at the very beginning, when I was first developing the ideas I wanted to touch upon through my independent study, these single shadows were going to be designed to be a commentary on the use of child labor that exists further up the cosmetics supply chain than animal testing does. As the semesters end starting coming closer, however, I had to modify this idea and worked to make it match up with the rest of the works and touch upon animal cruelty.

During a day of research, I ended up finding the actual Chinese law that talks about the ways in which they use animals to test products to be sold in mainland China. As soon as I found this document, I knew I wanted to work to incorporate into one of my works. At this point, the other two works that I had created utilized a lot of different design elements and were modeled after very artistic packages. For the eyeshadow packages, I wanted to try and go in a different direction and make a series of works that was rather simplistic, as that is what a lot of cosmetic packages tend to look like, especially within the luxury market.

For this work, the product name is represented by GB 7919-87, which is the title of the animal testing law from China. Wrapping around the box is an excerpt from this law, which corresponds to the animal that is featured at the front. This image is taken from the law as well and demonstrates where products are tested during one specific test. The Chinese text that wraps around the box details what the purpose of each of the four locations is. Unfortunately, I do not speak Chinese or have access to anyone who does, so I am unable to translate what it says exactly. One side of the box features an

One side of the box features instructions, which start by claiming “Irritation or allergic reaction may occur with some animals,” which is what happens during the clinical tests when these animals are exposed to products. I found this wording from a skincare package and thought it would be really powerful to add to a series of works that are meant to serve as a commentary on animal testing. The rest of the instruction section details what people should do with the product that was on the inside of the box.

Originally, when these single eyeshadow boxes were going to touch upon child slavery I was going to include pots of dirt and grass on the inside to demonstrate what these children are exposed to. However, I adapted this idea and placed inside the boxes a series of petri dishes filled with a handful of different spices. The immediate connotation that everyone has when they see a petri dish is science, and most likely labs and testing procedures. Placing spices on the inside of the dishes acts as a juxtaposition between the elements of science and nature, with the idea that you don’t need to expose everything to labs and science, and that often time natural substances such as spices or items found in nature are sufficient, and would thus eliminate the need for animal testing completely.

I really liked the way these turned out, however, if I could go back and work on these some more I would like to revise the design elements utilized because I’m not quite sure if people grasped that these were meant to be eyeshadows. I could have tried to incorporate something into the exhibition itself, like offering demos to do people’s makeup with the spices or something. With that being said, however, I have really happy with how this work turned out, and especially happy that I was able to find a use for the actual Chinese law that requires animal testing.

 

Completed Work #2 – Amendment

I know I’ve already made a post about my second completed work for my art show, but I wanted to make an additional post because I have made an update to this series. Much like the first completed work I did, I made some objects to go inside the box, so I wanted to take the time to talk about that here.

When I was going about doing research and getting inspiration for the works I was going to complete, I was talking to one of my friends, whose mother actually worked in a lab where they did animal tests. One of the things my friend said her mom did was sew the animal’s eyes shut every night after they ran the tests, and then unsewed them every morning. When I was reflecting on this, the first thought that came into my head was a mascara tube, but instead of the mascara wand when you unscrewed the top, there was a needle with bloodied animal fur attached to it.

Once I had the idea of mascara, I began researching mascara packages that were currently being sold right now in order to draw inspiration from their packaging to incorporate into my designs. I have always loved the Tarte packaging because of all the connections they to nature within their packaging, so my design aesthetics for this mascara came from their Maneater and Lights, Camera Flashes mascaras, including the use of animal print, the ingredients list, and the layout of the product name text on the front. It was my intention in utilizing these design aesthetics that someone who was passionate about makeup could view this work and draw connections between my packaging and the packaging of the Tarte products.

However, I wanted to work on a larger scale than normal products because once an individual was able to draw connections between my design aesthetic and current products they would understand what the product was supposed to be, but that there was a sense of awkwardness with what they were interacting with during my exhibition. I want this sense of awkwardness in the package size to cause people to be uncomfortable and have to take a second to reevaluate their perceptions of the cosmetics industry.

Additionally, my intention with creating the products to go inside was to create a visceral reaction from the viewers who opened the tubes and were confronted with this bloodied fur. When I first presented this idea to Ben during our discussion he was immediately excited, and during my show (since I am writing this after my exhibition has already happened), those who opened the tubes had the reaction I expected. So many people were taken aback by the fur because it’s not what you’re expecting when you open a black bottle, especially one that is meant to represent a mascara tube. I wanted people to be confronted by the atrocities of the cosmetics industry and the animal testing that is involved in some stage of the supply chain, so I’m really happy with the way this turned out.

Exhibition Video

I had my exhibition show yesterday for my independent study, which I have been working on all semester. As the semester is drawing to a close I will be posting finished work posts, along with information like my artist statement and materials used during my show. This is one such post.

When I first started my journey into a cruelty-free lifestyle, I was getting frustrated when people would feign interest or even empathy for the cause, but continue to go and buy products from companies that supported animal testing. I know that I’m not going to change everyone’s lifestyle, but I think that the idea of animal testing is something that people don’t get passionate about because it’s not something that is advertised frequently, or even mentioned in mainstream media as often as other social issues are.

Because of this, I knew that for my show I wanted to create a video that got to the root of these ideas. At first, it was going to be something very G-rated, like me painting my friends’ faces to look like beat up animals. However, that proved to be too difficult to organize, but also it didn’t touch on my point as strongly as I would have liked. During my research into what actually happened during animal testing trials, I stumbled across a video from the BUAV (now known as Cruelty Free International) that included undercover footage from inside a lab.

After seeing this video, I immediately had my idea. I was going to film myself doing my daily makeup routine, and intersperse videos from this BUAV video. My intention behind this video was to create a juxtaposition between the mundane activity (for me at least) of doing my makeup, with the atrocities that are occurring in this labs, to inspire a commentary on the idea of ignorance behind consumer habits, and that many people do not know what happens before some products are released to market. Additionally, I wanted people to come face to face with the realities of the conditions within the labs.

Below you will find the video that I created for this exhibition. Underneath the video will be the full BUAV video if you want to watch that. The songs used are Musique par le ballon by Emil Berliner and Space Me Out feat. Egle Sirvydyte (Mario Basanov Remix) by Downtown Party Network.

Dear Rachel #11

Yesterday was my exhibition, which means that my final semester of college is finally coming to an end, which is weird to say. I spent an entire semester on this independent study, so being able to show it off was really exciting, especially because it was about a cause that I’m very passionate about. However, there’s still a fair amount of work to do with this before I can say that I’m officially done, for now.

In the midsts of preparing this show, this website fell a little behind, so now it’s time to catch up. I have a few updated work posts to get up, along with posting my video, my artist statement, and a post about the exhibition itself. The semester itself comes to an end next Tuesday, so between then and now this website will be shown a lot of love. Although yesterday was the exhibition itself, there’s still improvements that can be made, especially to the artist statement and towards explaining thoroughly my intentions behind each work, which is something we talked about at the show yesterday. I want to make sure that I leave this semester feeling like I truly explained everything I wanted to achieve for this independent study because it may prove to be useful in unpacking my feelings towards the cosmetics industry as a whole and help me focus my ideas when I finally decide to start my own company.

Looking towards the future, I do want to maintain this website, even if it’s just weekly posts about articles I’ve found about the cosmetics industry. I think this project as really helped me push myself to explore this industry further and gain actual facts rather than relying on what blogs and other individuals are telling me. For now, I’m happy that my show was a success, but now it’s time to sit down and get everything onto this website so that my message and my work can each a larger audience.