Transform by Maria Won
Exhibited: Seoul, Korea/ Munich, Germany/ Tokyo, Japan/ Toronto, Canada/ Brooklyn, USA
In Asia, many females believe that changing your face to fit the accepted ideal of beauty in society will lead to self-confidence, a good marriage, and attract a rich husband. Specifically, in South Korea, plastic surgery is now an accepted part of the culture. Female teenagers often receive their first surgery at the age of twelve: a double eyelid surgery commonly given as a graduation gift. Males in their early 20's undergo surgery to raise the bridge of their nose, and women in their mid-20’s will alter different facial features and contour their face shape (50% chance of survival). When one does not receive a physical facial change, they may be excluded and labelled as "not pretty", or they may be judged due to their “natural” look. The pressure in Asian society is growing and the Eurocentric ideal of beauty is vastly spreading.
In the exhibition TRANSFORM, Maria Won explores the plastic surgery phenomenon in Asia. When she went to South Korea for her exchange studies, she was asked by the domestic students why she did not undergo any plastic surgery. The culture shock and the question suppressed her own confidence and appearance.
Throughout her artworks, Maria Won questions her conscious dilemma over whether to alter her own face due to cultural pressure; she contemplates why Asians strive to achieve a Eurocentric look, and questions if the result is worth it.
These questions are interpreted and expressed through her video artworks as she explores various mediums to symbolize fundamentals of “plastic”.
Her work is not intended as a criticism of Asian culture, but rather to analyze and question the culturally defined fundamental standards of beauty. She speculates on the demolishing of Asian aesthetics and spreads her knowledge of plastic surgery in the western culture through her artworks.