Raeleen Kao

More Beautiful in Death
2 plate etching w/ aquatint
10.5 x 7.5 in.

I see beauty as a mask for the morbidity of deterioration and draw on the vanity associated with a desperation to produce a facade of stability as the body becomes increasingly susceptible to illness. The manner in which I depict hair demonstrates the delicacy of an individual strand, the contrived beauty of a braid, and exposes its easily disheveled nature. Hair exists as a form of pride, infamously with Marie Antoinette to its modern importance with cancer patients. In my work, I explore hair as a precise record of health and as an extension of femininity and sexual power, made most evident in its absence under the invasive treatment of chemotherapy. These themes of loss are heavily centered on aspects of the body which anatomically define a woman. I focus on scars, stitches, and biopsy sites which actively externalize one's most intimate medical history. Historically, there has always been a stigma placed upon women who are unable to conceive, who give birth to stillborn children, or suffer through miscarriages. The shapes I choose to construct reference nests, umbilical cords, and ovum. These images obsess over a destruction of the female reproductive system and the reoccurring trauma which occurs with the loss of a child.