Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Susan Rankaitis

Reader 2

Kasper Kovitz

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© 2015 Emily C. Wages


According to the Mirriam-Webster online dictionary, “grotesque” is defined as “a style of decorative art characterized by fanciful or fantastic human and animal forms often interwoven with foliage or similar figures that may distort the natural into absurdity, ugliness, or caricature.” Originating from the Old Italian grottesca, cave painting, feminine of grottesco of a cave, from the time of its conception, the grotesque has been inexorably linked to art and the female. The work of other female artists that explore themes of the feminine grotesque are discussed, including Katheryn Wakeman, Jenny Saville, and Maria Lassnig. In my current work, I have been creating oil paintings of macro images of my own body to construct a fragmented and magnified, borderless, grotesque view of the body. The images focus on the mouth, due to its complicated nature as both internal and external, hidden and in plain sight, as well as due to connotations with speech, ingestion, and sexuality. The work walks a fine line between aesthetically pleasing while also commanding an uncomfortably visceral, fleshy quality. While the works are somewhat ambiguous and allow for various readings, they also allude to larger issues of sexism. The use of magnification and fragmentation references the insufficient representation of the female body both art historically —with the beautiful female nude painted by the male artist—as well as contemporarily in an overly-Photoshopped society. The visceral feeling of disgust should allow viewers to commune with their own bodies’ psychophysiological reactions and question the politics of how beauty standards are established as well as whether beauty is a valuable concept when judging the female form.

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