Every year 80WSE collaborates with graduate students in NYU’s Costume Studies department who, under the direction of Mellissa Huber, Assistant Curator at The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, create an exhibition that examines the dress and textiles and their relationship to the current cultural context.
This exhibition surveys the American products, advertisements, and icons that have contributed to cosmetic lid, lash, and brow trends from the 1900s to the present day. Arguably the most distinctive feature of the face, eyes have the power to transform one's outward appearance, while also uniquely conveying inner character. Highly expressive, they serve as nonverbal communicators of emotions ranging from sympathy and envy to fear and flirtation. Since ancient times, people have sought to enhance their eyes through preening and the application of cosmetics. Featuring publications, photographs, and material culture, The Eye of the Beholder contextualizes and synthesizes each decade's notion of the ideal eye.
From 1920s Max Factor cake mascara to the Urban Decay Naked Palette of the 2010s, exhibition objects include grooming tools and makeup essentials, ads, patents, periodicals, and guidebooks sourced from personal collections, such as that of Bésame Cosmetics Founder Gabriela A. Hernandez, and professional archives, including the archive of Maybelline New York and the Coty Archives, Max Factor and Cover Girl Collections. By examining defining moments within the cosmetic industry’s immense commercial output, this exhibition will illustrate how companies tap into the zeitgeist of each era to perpetually create a prevailing look, often reviving past beauty styles in the process. Although eye aesthetics are ever changing, the pursuit of "ideal" beauty-whether paradoxically natural or conspicuously artificial- is remarkably enduring.
The Eye of the Beholder: Decade Defining Lids, Lashes, & Brows is co-curated by NYU Costume Studies Master’s candidates: Jessica Barker, Lizanne Brown, Laura Gust, Adam Hayes, Elena Kanagy-Loux, Lauren Richter-Surinach, and Stephanie Sporn, with support from Mellissa Huber, Assistant Curator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Costume Institute. Additional support is provided by the NYU Costume Studies program and 80WSE.
Photographs by Leticia Valdez