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Pollymorphs & Strangelove

Read Essay by Shaw Hendry
Read Essay by Sera Waters

The women residing in Deidre But-Husaim’s series of paintings, ‘Pollymorphs & Strangelove’, are perplexing beings. The appearance of these women, derived from a set of ‘Darling’ cards that once belonged to the artist’s father, recalls the idealisations of 1950s women as demure and submissive. However, in But-Husaim’s reworked versions, these decorous creatures have metamorphosed into technologically extravagant beauties. Having undergone what could be imagined as futuristic body modifications, they seem both beautiful and monstrous simultaneously. In the style of a bestiary, these women can be categorised into two types; ‘pollymorphs’ and those described by the term ‘strangelove’.

‘Pollymorphs’ are wondrous women; tainted by the modern need for excess, they have a tendency to morph into double entities. Joined limb by limb after budding their doppelganger, together these women create the most beautiful monstrosity; slightly repulsive and overly sweet, a sublime version of beauty. While they play upon a naïve innocence, or understated sexuality typical of their era (at least by today’s comparisons), they are also symbolic of the excesses possible within the beauty industry when enabled by advancing technology, science, medicine and the worshipping of superficiality. Although a frightening thought, it isn’t too difficult to imagine Paris Hilton-types one day exploring the doubled-up extremes of the femme fatale.

The label ‘strangelove’ describes a type of subtly sexual woman who sprouts nature to lure men and other prey to their beauty. Unlike their ‘pollymorph’ counterparts, ‘strangelove’ do not believe in doubling their beauty pulling-power, but instead transplant flora and fauna into the crevices of their bodies to heighten their appeal; in the form of wings, twittering birds, flowers and plants. In a similar fashion to getting tattooed or cultivating new petri dish body parts, the natural fuses with flesh to create a high-tech womanly monstrosity.

‘Pollymorphs’ and ‘strangelove’, despite their superficial encumbrances, are not pitiable attractive creatures hindered by their deformities. Instead, they are enabled by their beauty and perhaps more powerful because of their enhancements. Not only do But-Husaim’s women reflect the generational shifts of beauty, perhaps they even prophesise what is to come: The future of beauty awaits.

Sera Waters is an Adelaide based artist and arts writer

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