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Frances Goodman: Transmogrified at Richard Taittinger Gallery

Frances Goodman, Black Crackle, 2021. Acrylic nails, foam, fiberglass, and silicone, 26 19/50 × 31 1/2 × 12 1/5 in.

Frances Goodman: Transmogrified

Richard Taittinger Gallery

Through July 24th

By PETRA MASON, July 2021

With its lush post-pop colours, metallic sheens and glittery autumnal hues, artist Frances Goodman’s third solo exhibition 'Transmogrified’ ‘explores the imaginary realm manifested through our phone and computer screens during lockdown purgatory’ says the Johannesburg born and based artist. 

Fortuitously, I was able to attend two of Goodman’s three solo exhibitions in the Lower East Side gallery space.​​​

This time around, somewhat subdued and still locked down in un-vaccinated South Africa -- although both in the same town -- the artist and I opted to do an interview and an IG walk through.

With the surge in ‘immersive art experiences’ and icky Instagram-able art, Frances Goodman interrogates superficial online make-up subcultures by returning the digital gaze. 

For Goodman, nail art has been a longtime muse, and for ‘Transmogrified’ the artist has refined and polished her mastery of the medium working with chrome nails to produce her strongest sculptures to date. 

The artist's sequin paintings shimmy like showgirls -- adding an other-worldly, glamour dimension to the characters photographed and depicted in her painstakingly produced portraits. In a continued play on process and medium, the sequins themselves become part of the static artworks ‘performance’. The sequins refract, reflect and change colour with light, movement and viewpoint, as the medium integrates with its subjects. 

Frances Goodman, Incarnadine Brilliance, 2020. Acrylic nails, foam, fiberglass, and silicone, 52 19/25 × 28 7/20 × 18 9/10 in.

PETRA MASON: The titles for your exhibitions are always intriguing and vocabulary expanding. Why ‘Transmogrified'? 

FRANCES GOODMAN: ‘Transmogrify' means to “transform in a surprising or magical manner”. That is the process that I explore, in both the subject matter and the way I use my materials.

PM: Dare I ask you to embellish on your sequin painting? 

FG: ‘I found make-up tutorials and make-over images that appealed to me on Instagram and Tiktok and employed make-up artists, stylists and a fashion photographer to help me realize the looks. Each step was planned: from the shoes to the diamantes on their eyelids. A long and painstaking process!’

PM: How do contemporary make-up subcultures fit into the beauty industry?

FG: ‘The rise in the make-up subculture ties in with my own long-standing interest in the beauty industry, and how it feeds off people’s insecurities to further its own financial ends. 

The current trend is premised on consumerism; it is consumerism as a subculture. The people within this beauty subculture seem to use the trappings of the consumer industry in order to transform and empower themselves. But the beauty industry has in turn realigned itself to use the vogue to its advantage, by strategically supplying their products directly to the seemingly empowered (or perhaps commoditized) to experiment with on social media, thus cutting out the need to invest in advertising campaigns. The users (influencers) themselves become the ultimate product placement (ambassadors), proving by example the effectiveness and desirability of a company’s products. The two have become intricately intertwined and entangled in one another. They are like some of the nail sculptures on the exhibition: knotted and entangled in a passionate tryst.’

Frances Goodman, Super Maleficence, 2021. Chicken wire, batting, fiberglass, acrylic nails, silicone, 171 × 125 × 82 in.

PM: Tell us about your history with nail art.

FG: ‘I have been focusing on and refining the nail sculptures for the past few years, in the belief that a material can never be truly known. The sculptures are consequently in a constant state of transformation. The once tightly-intertwined forms at times evolve into probing pernicious protrusions. In other instances, they unravel into ribbons, scrolls or discarded bandages that allude to digital signage with their flickering, impermanent empty messages on constant repeat. Sayings like “Show me your teeth'' have the throwaway snappiness of song lyrics, but also act as a call to assert power.’

‘Individually, each artificial fingernail used in the nail sculptures is a rigid, temporary, and dispensable object. When combined, they become organic, seemingly living forms that defy their inanimate composition. Pieces like ‘Incarnadine Brilliance’ and ‘Black Crackle’ take on the contours of a serpentine mating game, multiple attenuated bodies entangled in an ecstatic orgy.’ WM

Petra Mason

Cultural historian and vintage photography book author published by Rizzoli New York. Founder Obscure Studio and ArtHit. Whitehot arts and culture contributor since 2016.

Photography by (c) Thekiso Mokhele / Obscure Studio


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