Duane Hanson, Supermarket Shopper, 1970
In this creepily realistic sculpture, Hanson critiques middle America and consumerism. The woman depicted is not idealized in any way, and probably wouldn’t be the type of person to frequent an art gallery, although that’s exactly where Hanson has placed her. Hanson was precise and obsessed with surface; unlike a Chuck Close or Richard Estes painting, Hanson’s illusion of reality holds as the viewer moves closer and closer to the piece, charging the viewer’s body in relation to the work, creating a tension between actual reality and Hanson’s faux reality.
meh, i hate this. this whole “social critique” has been done to fucking death. this is incredibly classist as well. all of his works from this series are the same: all women, all fat, all working class/clearly not rich.
surprise surprise: duane hanson was a thin, college-educated white man. how easy for him to “critique” people who didn’t have the same opportunities as him.
OH NOOOO A FAT WOMAN GOING SHOPPING IN COMFY CLOTHES BUYING CHOC CHIP COOKIES AND BOG ROLL WHAT A SHOCKING WAY OF LIFE MUST CRITIQUE IT
If you really wanted to critique consumerism, shitfuck, you would be making an unflattering sculpture of the upper class heading on into Prada, buying multiple cars, treating service workers like slaves, and putting diamonds on themselves to cover the stink of exploitation.
But that’s not really consumerism, is it? It’s the American Dream, it’s what the entire world should aspire to.
Gross. Spare me the classist bullshit.
The intense desire for righting social injustice on tumblr leads to many silly rants that have more to do with emotionality than reality. Regardless of the artist himself, whose early biography I’m having trouble finding aside from a few anecdotal sentences about living in a small town during the great depression, you shouldn’t just assume the worst of a piece of art and then casually toss it aside.
Look back at the piece like a cold, rational human being. The woman is overweight. Her skin appears sickly; blotches and grease coat her body. A cigarette pokes arrogantly out of her mouth. Her gaze is vacant and oafish. She has on a form fitting pink shirt and a skirt that ends purposefully above the knee. She has curlers in her hair and has recently shaved her legs. A cheap, golden necklace rests on her plump chest. Her purse hangs haphazardly around a wrist. A shining watch clasps tightly around the other. Now take a glance at her shopping cart. Unhealthy frozen meals and junk overflow from the top.
The woman is grotesque, and it seems like she’s doing so on purpose. Even though she’s unfit, she continues to purchase a-nutritional trash. Even though she looks ill, she continues to smoke. And even though she doesn’t take care of herself, she continues to perform the superficial hetero-normative rituals required by women. She doesn’t choose to wear feminine clothes because she wants to, she wears clothes that show off her body because she thinks that’s how women should dress. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was blush on her face.
It’s obviously revolting. Notice her facial expression. Remember that this isn’t a random photograph, the sculptor chose specifically to create her character in this way. She stares at nothing. She is bored, apathetic, there is nothing in her life aside from her slave-like duties as a mother and wife. She lives without self-awareness. She lives without a critical thought in her head. She seems like the kind of person who would yell “Because!” without explaining herself. She is real, but at the same time, she is a stereotype.
She is a stereotype because she embodies all of the unhappiness and suffering of American poverty without any of the emotional depth of a living human being. She is real because she gives off all the physical features of a living human body.
The piece is intense and purposefully inflammatory. Now, does the artist think all of these negative traits exist inherently within Americans under the poverty line? Is that the point? No, I don’t think Scrooge McDuck sculpted this one. I don’t think Hanson took so much time out of his life to make a cheap classist insult. I said she was revolting, not because poor fat people are revolting, but because she represents the failings of American capitalist culture. She is the victim of thousands of predatory marketing tactics created to promote short-term happiness at the cost of long-term sustainability. She’s like a junkie. Human beings have so much potential and to see it squandered in this way because of other people’s greed and apathy is heartbreaking.
“While his early works dealt with physical violence or social issues, his later work seems to portray passive, isolated figures as victims of society and negative values.” - some shitty bookrags article but you get the point.
Could the same thing be said of wealthy consumerists? Absolutely, and I’m sure it has. This was made in 1970. It is a single piece by a single man. Of course by now we feel social criticism “has been done to fucking death.” It’s been 42 years.