Extreme Makeovers: The Visual Culture of Plastic Surgery, with Tanya Sheehan (Art, Colby)

November 17 at 7:00 in Lovejoy 100

Plan by Saville

Jenny Saville, Plan, 1993, oil on canvas, 108 x 84 inches

Focusing on the 20th-century and contemporary United States, this lecture explores the relationship between plastic surgery and visual culture. First, it presents plastic surgery as an increasingly popular practice motivated by a subject’s concern with being seen in a social environment. Second, it emphasizes the cultural importance of documenting visually, and especially photographically, the changes to the body and self produced through surgical operations. By reading closely images from the popular media and fine arts, Professor Sheehan will shed light on how and why Americans have sought to remake human nature through the visual culture of cosmetic medicine.

Tanya Sheehan is Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of Art at Colby College, where she teaches American and African American art history. She is the author of Doctored: The Medicine of Photography in Nineteenth-Century America (2011). Her edited books include Photography, History, Difference (2014), Photography and Its Origins (2015), and the forthcoming Grove Guide to Photography.

Student Discussions:

  • The Human Body As a Landscape December 15, 2015 Jessica TregidgoI found this evening’s lecture on plastic surgery incredibly interesting. Cosmetic surgery is aimed at improving one’s physical characteristics. In more recent years, plastic surgery has become increasingly common. Celebrities ...
  • Plastic surgery December 15, 2015 Sophie SuechtingThe visual culture of plastic surgery is not something I had though about until this talk. This talk was thought provoking and made me reconsider a lot of the ways ...
  • Plastic Surgery….? December 14, 2015 Jay ArrTanya Sheehan spoke on plastic surgery, and its relationship with art and human nature, and the interaction between them all. Her first image was a self-portrait of an artist before ...
  • Manipulation of the physical apperance December 14, 2015 Kay ShigemoriThe talk that Professor Sheehan gave on “the visual culture of plastic surgery” was fascinating. It was an interesting topic in the ‘human/nature’ theme, as she compared the ‘natural’ versus ...
  • Under the Knife December 13, 2015 Kathryn ChowTanya Sheehan’s work on plastic surgery as a form of visual culture uncovers a lot of flaws in the way we think about health, beauty, nature, and how we want ...
  • Are we just what we are? December 11, 2015 Nick PattisonMakeovers are the epitome of human/nature and how technology intersects with that. Using botox for plastic surgery, we inject the patient with a localized muscle-paralyzing organism. It is interesting to see ...
  • Plastic surgery with your phone December 8, 2015 JoshuaTanya Sheehan gave us a lot to think about in her talk, “Extreme Makeovers: The Visual Culture of Plastic surgery.” Our visual culture presents itself all the way from adding ...
  • Plastic Surgery: Is It Natural Or Unnatural? December 1, 2015 Stacey HouPlastic surgery is a maneuver developed during wartime and morphed into a beauty pursuit. The popularity of plastic surgery should not be a surprise—it’s astonishing how much modern human beings ...
  • The Digital Manipulation of Beauty December 1, 2015 Maya MeltsnerI thought Professor Sheehan’s lecture was fascinating because the material it covered is so pertinent in our society today. Although admittedly some of the content about the lengths to which ...
  • Mirror, Mirror on the Wall December 1, 2015 ErnestoMirror, mirror on the wall who is the prettiest of them all? As I get older every year, this is the question that I see many people asking themselves. Some ...