Saturday, 10 January 2009

Makeup or face paint?

I bought a blush yesterday - it was a fancy Clarins thingy that likely cost a tad too much to be a totally sensible purchase, but I can live with Clarins, and I do like pretty stuff. Which then prompted me to think a bit about my face paint. Or makeup.

You see, I do art, too. Regular, watercolour painting. It's just a hobby, but I like it, have done it for years. Nothing spectacular about it. If I mention that I paint for a hobby, people want to see piccies and usually respond admiringly enough, thank you very much.

I also make up my face. Practically every day. I think it started as a desperate exercise to look at least a tiny bit the way I wanted to look like, but I like the way I look in the mirror today in any case, makeup or no. Yet I still like to make up my face. It's my everyday art. I brush most of the stuff into place, just like I do with other paints and mediums. Enjoyable, nothing much to it.

The culture I live in, however, treats makeup and other paints differently. Art stores do not sell face paints, even though they sell watercolour pans, tubes, oils, acrylics, pastel sticks, you name it, they've got it. Makeup is sold in cosmetics shops, department stores - it's definitely not just face paint. And, living in this culture, it can't really be just face paint when I use it, either. No matter how neutral its use is for me - it isn't that much about me, but about others.

On the other hand, one could argue that face art doesn't differ from other art that much as it does play with meanings, just like any art. It's just that the meanings given to face painting in my Western, white culture are somehow culturally separated from other forms of painting.

First of all, face painting is a decidedly feminine pursuit. The only masculine applications of it that I know of are military camouflage sticks, used probably to hide amongst trees and foliage with guns: a relatively rare pursuit. Makeup on feminine people, on the other hand, is not rare: it's common.

Why, then, all this explaining when I just bought a blush? Well, I did feel a tad guilty about it, even though I hardly feel guilty about buying a couple of full pans of watercolour paint - which, incidentally, costs just as much as that blush did. So why, then, would I feel weird about buying face paint? There's no rational reason to feel like that. Unless I buy into the silly notion that feminine stuff is frivolous and not really worthy of serious attention and care. Which I don't, in principle, but in practice it seems I do. Silly me. My face paint is just as important (or unimportant, depends on the day I guess) as my other paints.

(I should write more on this, but can't be arsed right now - I'll get back to it later)

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