Artwork / Swollen / Breast Enlargement Surgery

before and after portraits of a woman who has had cosmetic surgery
Gwenn Seemel
Before and After: Breast Enlargement Surgery
2006 and 2007
acrylic on bird’s eye piqué
30 x 54 inches (combined dimensions)

Of all the paintings in Swollen, viewers struggled this the most with this pair, questioning me as to why I would include a boob job in a serious and thoughtful exploration of womanhood. Still, I remain certain of the importance of this diptych: our appearance as well as all the ways we measure it may be constantly evolving, but they still have a deep impact on our understanding of who we are.

What follows is the text originally displayed with Before and After: Breast Enlargement Surgery. It describes the earth change that I chose as an analogy for this woman’s transition.

Mountain-making is much more than a superficial event for the earth. When the Indian subcontinent crashed into Asia, the collision pushed up the earth’s crust to form the Himalayas. This formidable mountain range initiated India’s powerful monsoon, a concentration of wet weather on the subcontinent which eventually dried out Africa’s savanna. Though a subtler change in landscape than a mountain’s appearance, the widening grasslands did manage to coax primates down from the trees. The earth hasn’t been the same since.

painterly portrait
detail image
painterly portrait
detail image