The event was put on by a “community of queer, trans, womyn, POC, and mutant artists and performers,” explained January Parkos Arnall, a curatorial associate for the Hammer Museum who was in charge of curating the event. It featured exhibitions through a variety of media and performance art designed to challenge typical beauty standards and support self-love.
According to Arnall, Mutant Salon seeks to celebrate all individuals who feel that they do not fit into society’s limiting definitions of beauty.
Pressure to conform to the idealized and often restrictive standards of beauty that are perpetuated through images in magazines, television and social media has a damaging effect on women’s self-esteem. These expectations extend beyond women to affect individuals of all races, gender identities and cultural backgrounds.
Studies have confirmed the harmful effects of beauty expectations on individuals from different backgrounds. A study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows that social media use showed an increase in depressive symptoms in adolescents. Another study by the Social Issues Research Center says that dissatisfaction with physical appearance extends to people of various sexual orientation, ages and ethnic backgrounds.
In response, methods of encouraging the acceptance of all types of beauty have sprung up. Mutant Salon hope to do just that and allow people to accept the beauty that they already possess, Arnall said.
“(Mutant Salon) is a platform for artists and performance artists,” Arnall added. “It is a frame for the greater community of LGBTQ, (people of color), women and people who don’t feel they conform to societal norms.”
Arnall explained that Mutant Salon is inspired by feminist ideas of beauty, but also draws from other ideas that embrace a diversity of viewpoints and definitions of beauty.
The room was full of alternative art pieces, extravagant costumes, makeup, nail polish, a table full of mini-magazines created by the artists and people with faces painted with intricate designs, a powerful recording playing on a loop in the background. The recording expressed the importance of accepting ourselves as “monsters” and realizing that we all are “worth our weight.”
“Am I pretty, Mommy?” the recording stated.
“No,” echoed the response. “Your worst fears about yourself are true, so then the ideal truth is beauty, but the truth about you is ugly.”
The recordings, artwork and performances served as reminders that beauty is not something that can be labeled based on specific appearances, viewpoints or identities. They emphasized that the things that make individuals different or “monstrous” can be seen as parts of what make him or her beautiful.
One performer named Barf Queen was in charge of an exhibition where guests could paint face masks and dress up in various costumes.
“(Mutant Salon) is a great space and opportunity to be able to be yourself and be body positive in a really accepting and free, safe space,” Barf Queen said. “For me, play and dress-up are a big part of playing out fantasies and traumas in positive, new transforming ways. Celebrating being gross and ugly is important. Being human is gross and visceral. We should stop trying to airbrush that out.”
So, perhaps this Halloween season, dress up to embrace your own uniqueness and imperfections, because accepting your inner monster will make you more beautiful than conforming to anyone else’s standards of beauty will.