Strips of artificial turf crunch underfoot when you enter Soltesz Fine Art, leading you through Leslie Vigeant's conceptual show about the synthetic standards of feminine beauty, titled Plastic Growth. "Why do we force our bodies to fit into impossible molds," Vigeant asks, "and how do we deal with the reality that we cannot?"
Follow the plastic carpet and you will arrive at Synthesized Horizon, an installation in which eight iPhones grow weedlike out of floor sockets, their cords trailing like roots. The screens play flashing GIFs of women getting waxed, plucked and Botoxed, smiling all the while. One phone, playing instructional videos on contouring, features women streaking their faces, cleavage, buttocks—even toes— in dark makeup like war paint. They become an army of cosmetic warriors fighting for the right to make things appear bigger or smaller than they actually are.
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Vigeant's wicked sense of humor appears everywhere, but never is she more wry than in her sculpture Healthy Shiny Hair, which is nothing more than a pile of synthetic brunette clippings lying dead on a shelf under an anemic grow light. It is one more wink at the ways we try to force the impossible to make ourselves more appealing.
Tufts of fake hair pour out of the mouths of five Miracle-Gro bottles in It's a Miracle! Starter Kit 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Vigeant uses the containers in many of her sculptures as a symbol of our belief that, given the right products, we can make anything bigger, brighter and more luscious.
Vigeant, who is a skilled painter, complements her sculptures with a few memorable 2-D pieces in Plastic Growth. Delicate, papery flowers open wide in the background of a giant canvas over which Vigeant has painted "LIE TO ME IN A SOFT VOICE LIKE A NICE BOY," the letters glowing pink like a neon sign. In Welcome to the Club, Vigeant has painted over a digital print of cheery white flowers with similar letters that read, "IT JUST DOESN'T LOOK GOOD ON YOU." She takes us from the bullshit platitudes of yesteryear to the new brand of punishingly hard truths that we cite as progress in our treatment of women.
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It is nearly impossible to put together a conceptual exhibition of 2-D and 3-D work that offers thoughtful social commentary while being funny, sad and infuriating. Vigeant has done it.