Alyson Fox has built a brand with her hands; by way of illustration, fashion design and photography, her art pushes its audience to discover new boundaries and explore their comfort zones alongside her.
In 2008, she began a project that would last eight months and lead her to meet 150 different women, all with one thing in common—A Shade of Red. The only thread that tied them together was their willingness to wear the same red lipstick, Revlon’s #740 Certainly Red.
Fox found significant inspiration for the project in a quote by Colonel Gonin, commenting on the liberation of the Bergen-Belson concentration camp:
"It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived… Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips… That lipstick started to give them back their humanity," Gonin said.
Karla and Carmen
For Fox, A Shade of Red became a study in "twin desires": one of the subject, and one of the artist, as well as the transformative power of a simple tube of lipstick and Fox's desire for connection and participation.
Fox centered her project around the myth of make up and it's ability to offer those who wear it "the chance to become [themselves] by becoming someone else."
"I was trying to capture a raw moment," she says. "Something that, when you looked at the image, it created a story. It may be who [the women] really are or it may not. I don't know them well enough to say, but I did shoot them in a super natural way—letting them ease into it."
Surprisingly, Fox only knew 15 of the women featured in the book personally. Through trial and error, she approached would-be subjects in a variety of ways (at the post office, in a coffee shop, on the street), eventually finding that word of mouth was the best method for the project's success.
"I would then meet them in their own personal space," Fox explains. "I never spent longer than 75 minutes with anyone. Only bringing my camera and the lipstick...no light or anything. The beauty of this project was showing up somewhere and being presented with the subject and the back drop without knowing what it would be. Then getting to know an awesome woman."
The 150 different portraits summon an array of emotions, serving as an examination of female identity, ranging from strength to vulnerability.
"This project grew into something bigger that I could have ever imagined," says Fox. "On a very basic level, it's a great community of women. From there, it's open to interpretation."
The series of portraits demonstrates that, depending on how it's employed, make-up can break barriers more often than create them.
"These photographs have shown me that posing for someone, or “making” yourself up are not about vanity or superficiality, but about connection, about “humanity” as Colonel Gonin says," Fox explains.
"Among the women there is a pastor who started her own church and an 87 year-old artist who I meet in Marfa, Texas. There is an opera singer and a widow who had lived without her husband for most her life. There is a woman who, without looking into a mirror, could apply lipstick like it was an art form. They learned about me, and I learned a little about them, and along the way, their photographs were taken."
"To be photographed by a complete stranger and know that they might not like the end result," Fox continues, "what a crazy awesome collaboration... I could have shot forever."
Artist reception will take place at Domy on Oct. 25, 7 - 9 p.m.