<em>My whole obsession with beauty is that in order to seduce people into looking at something they would otherwise not want to deal with, I'm going to make it as beautiful as possible.</em> —Judith Schaechter <strong>VIII. Extra Special Peak Aesthetic Experience 2009–2011</strong> Beyond the sensual delights of pattern and color, Schaechter seeks to capture the beauty and meaning in nature and humanity under extreme conditions. She delights in combining beauty with ugliness. It is here in the playful and subversive realm of the grotesque that she finds that “extra special peak aesthetic experience” elevated beyond the sensory to the extrasensory: she transcends earthly beauty to achieve spiritual beauty. Early in her life, Schaechter was exposed to the cultural obsession with feminine beauty and decorum through dolls, fashion magazines, television, movies, and advertising. At the same time, feminist writers Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem were interrogating the toxic effect of mass culture on the female psyche. These conflicting influences are visible in Schaechter’s daring reclamation of the female body, sexuality, and the grotesque as a rebellious gesture against expectations for a woman’s appearance and behavior. Her figures are not idealized pinups; they are by turns demure, wild, ashamed, androgynous, and libidinous. The artist frequently turns nudity into nakedness with key items of clothing, like transparent shifts or fire-engine red heels. The figures’ averted or closed eyes look inward, consumed with their internal realities and invulnerable to external opinion.
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