The Beauty in ‘Eye of the Beholder’ Exhibit

Matthew Holman
The Costume Studies exhibit “The Eye of the Beholder: Decade-Defining Lids, Lashes, and Brows” explores the role of the eye in fashion. The show is currently on display through NYU Steinhardt.

Beauty comes through in “The Eye of the Beholder: Decade-Defining Lids, Lashes, and Brows,” or the NYU Costume Studies exhibit currently on display through NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.

As its title suggests, the showcase scrutinizes the significance of cosmetics surrounding and pertaining to the eye. Although it might come across as a minuscule area to devote an entire exhibit to, WSN came to discover the importance the eye holds in the field of fashion.

Seniors in Steinhardt behind the exhibit — Jessica Barker, Lauren Richter-Suriñach, Adam Hayes and Lizanne Brown — sat down with WSN to discuss their work.

Washington Square News: To begin, could you explain what exactly the Costume Studies program is for those unfamiliar?

Jessica Barker: “The Costume Studies graduate program has been a small but significant part of NYU for nearly forty years. It was initially developed in 1979, largely to prepare museum professionals for work with costume collections… Today, led by Program Director Nancy Deihl, our curriculum enables students to analyze many facets of dress, textiles and forms of adornment… Located within NYU Steinhardt, we are part of the Department of Art and Art Professions. Many of our students also engage in hands-on creative practices as an extension of their scholarly interests.”

WSN: How exactly did this opportunity come about?

Barker: “One of the most exciting parts of our curriculum is the Exhibition Praxis course that we can take after completing the first year of the program… We are tasked with developing and realizing an exhibition over the duration of the semester.”

WSN: Talk us through the intricacies of this exhibit. Why the eye? Why this theme?

Lauren Richter-Suriñach: “Makeup is usually an unexplored area in fashion exhibitions. It’s sometimes trivialized and overlooked. Makeup, and specifically eye makeup, can help define the look of a decade. Eye makeup has the transformative ability to change many types of women (and men) into people of their time. As well as being an important canvas for fashionable display, eye makeup, especially in American history, has been more universal than other types of cosmetics, like lipstick or foundation. Different types of people can wear the same eye makeup looks without having to worry about their eye color, skin color or eye shape.”

WSN: What is your favorite facet of the exhibit?

Adam Hayes: “I find visually presenting compelling sociocultural narratives through the exhibition of extant primary sources to be extremely fulfilling. So for me, I enjoyed the process of designing the exhibition with my co-curators the most, as it provided the opportunity to visually dissect and convey each decade’s perceptions and manifestations of “ideal” beauty and womanhood through the products and advertisements women were surrounded by and utilized.”

WSN: What was your creative process?

Lizanne Brown: “The creative process revolved around contacting archives and private collectors for objects and searching advertisements and magazines that conveyed the ‘ideal’ eye of each decade. We chose to present our research and objects by decade to fluently illustrate the shifts in lids, lashes and brows over the last century.”

The exhibit is currently on display at the 80WSE Gallery and runs through Feb. 2. Learn more about Eye of the Beholder exhibit here.

Email Matthew Holman at [email protected]

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