The Sacrifices We Make for Beauty


An interview with Marta Zgierska

Every year we run a Series Award through which we celebrate series of work from emerging photographers. The winner receives a solo exhibition and this year we’re collaborating with Galerie Intervalle in Paris – a global hub for photographic practice, hosting exhibitions, talks and events, as well as representing 10 of the most exciting emerging artists in the photographic sphere. The Series Award is open to all Life Framer Members.

In the lead up to the deadline for this year’s award (31 August 2019) we’re sharing a number of articles that explore the work of Galerie Intervalle’s represented artists…

“In the modern world, Beauty is god. A deity that requires frequent sacrifice. I make votive wax figures to beseech the deity to make me beautiful. By covering my own body in a wax shell, I myself become a votive figure. I make a sacrifice of my body to this new god. The color on the wax is not decorative in itself, it is driven by the beauty products used to decorate the body, a representation of the cult of beauty. The trace of lipstick, shining through the waxen layer, marks the point of contact between the living body and the shell. A technological disposition creeping into delicate, pleasant images. The beauty of the body has become religion, and its cult, in a paradoxical twist, spreads best through virtual reality, gaining millions of followers in the process. For many, the depiction of appealing, desirable body becomes the only pursuit, a way of life, a stepping stone to a life of fame and fortune. The body and its beauty have become commodities that can be monetized to an unprecedented extent. And inexorably, we ourselves have become a part of that particular reality, a reality that can no longer be changed, even by a mass shift in consciousness.” Marta Zgierska – Votive Figure

Here we ask Marta about the challenges of such a project and all of her thoughts, feelings, and stories that she captured in this series.

In Votive Figure, the images seem so sensual and feminine, yet each has something somewhat disturbing about them. What feelings were you intending to invoke with them?

During my solo exhibition at the Galerie Intervalle in Paris, several people shared with me their feelings independently. These emotions were very similar: feelings of uneasy, disturbed, sense of danger. It’s fascinating what boundary emotions can shine through the wax, which looks as frosting in beautiful, rose tones images.

I think that refferings, which I used to create “Votive Figure” and talk about beauty standars are enable the activation of various emotions in viewers.

First, the strong reference to the religious context. The votive figure, often made of wax, has been offered in places of worship as a pleading or thanksgiving offering for centuries to modern times. Offering often has the form of a human figure or body fragments, which we pray for.

Second, the unique properties of wax build important meanings and contexts:  temporality, variability of physical state, fragility. It makes you think about fragility  and vanishing of our bodies.

In your description of the Votive Figure series, you mention that you turned yourself into a votive and that in doing so you were sacrificing yourself to the god (goddess?) of beauty. What feelings came up for you as you did this? How did those feelings affect the final images?

I want to draw attention to some aspects of our current, often virtual lives. This my reflection on the beauty standards in the contemporary world, women’s image which is under the permanent pressure. I’m asking what is the real importance of our efforts to stay young and beautiful?

I think that my dominant private feelings during working on this photographs are anxiety and some kind of confusion, as well as the feeling that this “beauty” pression also weighs on me – as a woman and as an artist. How many things about caring on my look are stranger to me? How difficult is this effort and whether it is necessary for us at all?

Back to the first question, swirling anxiety and a scratch on our beautiful image presented in social media, the splinter of truth, are speaking through images.

You’ve mentioned in a previous interview that you often find it hard to finish something that is related to myself, because you want to do it perfectly. How did that come into play here?

From time when I decided to work on subjects, which are always relevant for me on a personal level, I’ve gained strength, to finish my works. Here “Post” series is especially important, connected with a big turn in my life – a serious car accident in which I almost died.

The difficulty of the process is probably what enables me to create valuable works. This passing through the process builds meaning and ultimately gives me the strength to finish my artistic expression.