Most Important Ugly: What Happens When Makeup, Identity, And Art Intersect?

by kelsey haight

I F***ING LOVE THE INTERNET. It brings together lovely, talented people and allows us to all support one another. Namely, Tayler Smith and Arabelle Sicardi, two talented dames who came together to make an art project about makeup theory and identity that will blow your mind. Do you have a Tumblr? Are you a young adult in New York? If so, you must know about these artsy fartsy smartsy folks. Both have very original and intriguing blogs concerned with fashion, makeup (not just beauty!), art, aesthetics, and identity. Not only are these young visionaries incredibly concerned about identity, but they are also down to earth and ready to hustle to achieve goals by raising awareness about their concerns. OH, AND THEY SIMULTANEOUSLY MAKE ART THAT MATTERS.


Arabelle and Tayler joined forces to draw attention to Most Important Ugly and the significance of makeup theory when it comes to empowerment and identity. Says Tayler, “This is a series of portraits I’ve made of our sitters that Arabelle asks a series of questions regarding their personal histories with makeup- the first time they ever put on makeup, what makes them feel powerful, what do they not like about themselves that they try to cover.” This duo directs their attention towards theory, and their work embodies a new level of art by exploring the psyche. Arabelle and Tayler are unveiling their series Most Important Ugly April 25th from 6:00-9:00pm at American Two Shot (135 Grand Street, NYC).

These questions create a platform for the shoot, specific to each individual. “Arabelle then applies a makeup look on them that kind of exploits these insecurities and makes them uncomfortable so they have to push through that exterior and let their innermost self shine through.” If it gives you any more perspective on the series, the questions are called “Therapy Sessions In Sephora,” in homage to the birthplace of this series and thought process regarding makeup theory and identity. I know many people who have very complex relationships with makeup, but Arabelle and Tayler simplify it into something worth exploring, something that can be empowering.

Still confused about how it all works? It’s pretty simple: Arabelle interviews people about makeup theory, psychology, identity, and then Tayler swoops in and works photographic magic to capture the essence of the individual. Arabelle elaborates,  “This project discusses anxiety and queer marginalization. It is a presentation of the resistance of marginalized people and how makeup can bring out the best in you: it’s just that the best is not always what is expected, or the most beautiful, or the most kind.” This idea is important on so many different levels. Arabelle and Tayler combat beauty/fashion photography that simply accentuates and elevates an ideal form. They strive to cherish and empower the voiceless, anyone marginalized, those who feel internally conflicted or powerless over their own aesthetic and body autonomy.

“Most Important Ugly tells the story of Monster Culture and the everyday heroes that it breeds. The heroes are my friends in the queer community, my readers, our friends. Non­binary beauties, trans friends, queer and questioning people we know and love all came together to sit for this project and it is their stories that we have the honor to share in these photographs,” said Arabelle.

Interested in figuring out your Most Important Ugly? RSVP here, and then come by American Two Shot (135 Grand Street, NYC) this Friday, April 25th from 6:00-9:00pm to chit chat with the artists. There will be a zine detailing the questions asked of each sitter so you can channel your inner ugly. 


Images Courtesy of Tayler Smith

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