Sunday, July 3, 2016

WEEK 2: Medicine & Technology & Art

Everyone wants to look their best. From make-up and cosmetics, many utilize products to put their best face forward.  In today’s world, we have the capability to go beyond our skin and change what’s underneath through plastic surgery. I don’t have much experience with medical technology, but I have always found plastic surgery to be interesting. Though I occasionally have my share of self-image issues, I still find it too extreme that my features could be altered if I wished. The word “plastic” comes from Greek origins meaning “form” or “mold,” embodying the artistic nature behind these procedures. Similar to our current technology for prosthetics, plastic surgery was driven by war and aiding veterans in need of skin grafts and facial reconstruction.

Today, plastic surgery is more often used for cosmetic purposes. Undergoing nine surgeries, the artist Orlan achieved features from prominent women from iconic pieces of art. Ranging Botticelli’s Birth of Venus to Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Orlan acquired specific features from each. The most interesting part of Orlan’s artistic endeavor was her reason for doing so. She didn’t choose the features from her heroines based on beauty, but for the interpersonal qualities they manifested. She used art to capture inner beauty and medical technology to express it.

Each surgery was filmed and made into a performance.
Despite inner beauty, societal standards will always be a topic of debate. Recently, the media has been under fire for the seemingly unrepresentative body type of models. Even Mattel’s “Barbie” has received a makeover; in January 2016 Mattel released a line of dolls featuring more body types to be more representative of all women. Moreover, artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm constructed a new Barbie doll based on what she would like with real proportions. These projects strive to erase some of the social stigma surrounding traditional views of beauty.

Regardless of whether a plastic doll causes significant damage to a young girl’s body image, it is evident we care about how we look. Though plastic surgery is available, it is an expensive commodity not available to most. However, as biotech advances, parents could be able to determine how their child looks before they’re born. These “designer babies” may be more common once “a catalogue of essentially all the molecules from which a human is created” (Ingber 1). Despite our appearance and value of our looks, hopefully we’re able to realize it is what’s inside that truly matters, and there’s more to person than just a pretty face.


Goldstein, Sasha. "Barbie as a Real Woman Is Anatomically Impossible and Would Have to Walk on All Fours, Chart Shows." Daily News. N.p., 14 Apr. 2013. Web. 03 July 2016.

Pearson, Michael. "Barbie's New Body: Curvy, Tall and Petite." CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 03 July 2016.

Lamm, Nikolay. "What Would Barbie Look Like As an Average Woman? - Nickolay Lamm." Nickolay Lamm. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2016.

"Artiste Transmédia Et Féministe. Météorite Narratif Du BIO ART. Son Oeuvre Questionne Le Statut Du CORPS Dans La Société. Ses Sculptures, HYBRIDATIONS Et Autoportraits Réinterprètent Le Rôle Des Nouvelles Technologies." ORLAN. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2016.

Venosa, Ali. "Designer Babies: Fact Vs. Fiction." Medical Daily. N.p., 2016. Web. 03 July 2016.


Jung, Chloe. Digital image. Quote Burd. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 July 2016.

Plastic Surgery. Digital image. Highland Dermatology. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2016.

Lamm, Nikolay. What Would Barbie Look Like As an Average Woman? Digital image. Nikolay Lamm. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2016.

Janesmith, Amy. Orlan. Digital image. On Performance and Positivity. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2016.

Taylor, Michael. Dove Real Beauty Campaign. Digital image. Mind Body Green. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2016.


  1. Hi Gina,

    Insightful blog post. I like how you examined the role of plastic surgery and defined the roots of the words. Often, you'll hear plastic surgeons refer to patients with great outcomes as their "master piece" or "work of art". Your play on words was pretty cool, too. "Best face forward" is indeed something desirable and sought. Unfortunately, it comes at a "high price", no?

    Your critique of the barbies was on point. So unrealistic and damaging to females. It creates unrealistic and ludicrous expectations of the standard of beauty. With medicine and art, the lines get blurry. There is great potential in the cosmetic surgery for women who've undergone extreme treatments and have scarring, but it shouldn't be abused and used to redefine the natural beauty.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Much appreciated post.


  2. I was very interested in reading about your thoughts on "societal standards" and plastic surgery. I agree that the media is trying to advocate for very unrealistic beauty standard lately. Luckily, some groups such as the Dove campaign you mentioned are doing something about this. The fact that people might one day be able to change the physical appearance of their babies is even more disturbing, though. It not only seems unethical, but it also devalues the relationship between parent and child. Parents should love their children regardless of what they look like. Besides, outer beauty is ephemeral compared to that of inner beauty.