Beauty is Boring

Robin Black

6. Robin-Black-Portrait

There’s beauty in simplicity. Or is it the other way around? Robin Black, a notable and seasoned creative force in makeup artistry is the author of the distinctive blog, Beauty is Boring. There she provides a literal, dictionary-derived definition of beauty, describing it as “The quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” Suffice it to say, this sterile explanative negates the complexity that is the concept of beauty in today’s society, which is precisely the point for Black’s blogging endeavors. Through image after image of artistically composed faces, Black uses cosmetics as her medium for a bold commentary on beauty. With a sporadic compilation of subjects ranging from musicians to actors, models, friends and even strangers, her photographic story is told with modernity and relevance. Her images reflect anything from seasons to mood, and essentially whatever her hands feel like doing in the moment. Black’s blog also includes a section titled “27 Seconds” which features a series of simple, yet oddly arresting videos. For instance, one such video portrays a glittering face making subtle movements and expressions; another shows bright paint cascading down clean, ivory skin.

Black is a highly sought-after creative force. Her work has been shown in Vogue, Elle, Allure, Interview, Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar, and she has participated in several prestigious New York Fashion Week shows, including DVF. Beauty is Boring is unique in that it is a platform for her personal work. For those who enjoy engrossing themselves in imagery that depicts beauty in varied, unique and rare forms, it’s well deserving of
your attention.

How did you initially find the correlation between beauty as a medium for art as you use it?

It had never occurred to me that “makeup artist” was an actual career until a friend pointed out that, since I was interested in fashion, photography and painting, maybe it would be a fun way to pay the bills.

Can you explain your love/hate relationship with beauty?

Miuccia Prada once said that she loved her work in practice but despised it in theory. I think it’s the theory of beauty that upsets me; the way society has defined it and how an exclusive few have sold this ridiculously limited notion of what it is to the masses. Beauty should be a broad concept filled with contradictions and room for individuality, not a rigorous definition with strict guidelines to obey.

From where do you draw your inspiration for your topics and whom you feature?

Beauty is Boring is very spontaneous and experimental. The looks I create for it come from a variety of sources and the images are very collaborative. Often the model comes with an idea they want to try, sometimes I see a face and I instantly have a concept. Other times, I have a new product that I want to experiment with or I just start working and let my hands decide what the look will be.

You encourage your readers to relax and enjoy the brave new world that includes boys who wear makeup and girls who look like boys wearing makeup. Do you see beauty having the potential to play a role in dissolving antiquated gender expectations?

Beauty has always been on the forefront of challenging cultural norms. If you look back over the past decades, there are plenty of examples of beauty helping to redefine social standards. In the ’50s women were still expected to be seen, not heard—preferably while baking something. Their ideal beauty look was perfectly coiffed hair, bright lips, drawn in brows and perhaps a flick of black eyeliner. Shortly after that, in the ’60s, women burned their bras and wiped their faces clean as they enjoyed the new freedom of the hippie era. The ’70s brought on glam rock, androgyny, disco glitter and then that was replaced by the ’80s colorful, optimistic (possibly cocaine-fueled) statement looks. Then ’90s grunge with its minimalist, heroin-chic style rolled around and suddenly Vogue was featuring nude faces with brown lipstick. The changing attitudes of the times is always reflected in beauty trends but it’s when the new beauty looks actually precede the wider social acceptance that it plays a role in the changing cultural norms.

Tell me about your video collection titled “27 Seconds.”

It was inspired by a series of silent movie screen tests that I stumbled across. In them, an actress does the same motion over and over, sometimes with small adjustments to her expression—sitting in a chair, then standing up or slowly adjusting her hat or walking across the screen or looking horrified, etc. Bizarre but somehow compelling to watch.

Where do you see your blog in ten years? Where do you see yourself?

I started the blog on a whim and so I suppose one day it will end that way. I don’t set goals or make plans for the far-off future. Instead, I throw myself into projects that interest me and see where they go.

Text by Jennifer Richardson-Moulaison
Photograph by Robin Black