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Living in a Material World

Walter Cronkite, news anchor-royale and mustache-extraordinaire, signed off each and every news broadcast with a succinct, “And that’s the way it is.” Chronicling events as historic as the moon landing and President Kennedy’s assassination, Cronkite cemented himself in the American conscious as a deified journalist. Last weekend, as I left the Mario Testino: In Your Face exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, I couldn’t help but think that—if Cronkite were still reporting today—he would end each installment of the nightly news with, “Lady Gaga’s got a fat ass, Gisele Bünchen’s legs are the gateway to Heaven, no one rocks a side-part like J.Lo…and that’s the way it is.”

Walking into the retrospective of Testino’s exhaustive fashion photography catalogue, I was overwhelmed with the immediate, soaring emotions only a fellow homosexual could understand. Search elsewhere for the chef-d’oeuvres of time come and gone.

At In Your Face, Madame X was instead Anna Wintour radiating wealth and sheer terror in a startling white jacket. Kate Winslet, face in profile while obviously yearning for the days of love scenes with pre-puffy-faced Leonardo DiCaprio, strikes a Girl with the Pearl Earring pose. Naomi Campbell enters a hotel lobby with all eyes on her, taking the subtle Mona Lisa smile to super-sized proportions. Eat your heart out, le Louvre!

Considering my life-long symbiosis with pop-culture has been akin to an intravenous drip, this pop-photography installation nearly made me flip my bicycle in joy. Testino’s photos are glamorous without being ostentatious, hilarious whilst avoiding sardonicism, controversial sans crass. These thoughts, however, could not be dwelled upon for too long considering the exhibit visitors—peasants—who took Testino’s tongue-in-cheek photography as an opportunity to tongue-wag on all things celebrity.

Standing in front of a portrait of a semi-nude Stephanie Seymour, I heard a middle-aged woman to my right say to her friend, “Oh my god, Stephanie Seymour was so hot back in the day. And then she married that multi-billionaire. And did you see those pictures of her making out with her son in St. Barts?”

As I kneeled prostrate before a towering portrait of Kate Moss made-up in dazzling shades of maquillage, I heard Beevus and Butthead on my left say to each other, “I wonder how coked up she was here.” Granted…she probably was. But Her Royal Moss’s favorite extracurricular activity is beside the point. Sniff.

While experiencing PTSD flashbacks as a result of sitting all the way through Australia, I looked at a shot of Nicole Kidman languorously sinking into a chair in a hall resembling Versailles-via-Orange County. While trying to deduce whether it was a candelabra or a coat rack set on the table, I hear an old woman behind me scoff, “She’d be pretty if her forehead actually moved. She must own stock in Botox at this point!”

Walk into any other wing of the MFA and you’ll be damned to find commentary nearly as heated as I encountered at In Your Face.

Just as Andy Warhol did fifty years ago, Testino takes the arguably shallow nature of celebrity and exalts it into art. But when we see national news programs discussing celebrity divorces and bad bikini bodies, has the crucial irony been forsaken? So long as galleries continue to be filled with thousands of individuals who will equivalently worship and devour their cultural icons, we will continue to place our right hand on the National Enquirer and promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us Oprah Winfrey. And that’s the way it is.

Posted by on February 8, 2013. Filed under Entertainment,Opinions & Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.