David LaChapelle

Urban Jesus series - David LaChapelle

On Sunday I spent the afternoon downtown in Mexico City. Despite the long lines, over-priced artesania and really bad ice cream, I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon because I got to see one of the strangest, most interesting socio-cultural photo art exhibits I’ve ever seen, The Delirium of Reason by David LaChapelle.

Disaster - David LaChapelle

Disaster - David LaChapelle

His works of art are pointed, in-your-face scenes, in my opinion created to make you think about what you have accepted as reality and how society operates on a daily basis. He tackles subjects as serious as religion, wealth, Jesus Christ, beauty, consumption, and more. The exhibit was also very well put together, with well-written, highly intellectual explanations in both English and Spanish throughout. And in Mexico City it is showing in an old Catholic school, which ads a nice contrast with floor-to-ceiling Christian paintings next to Mr. LaChapelle’s own take on religion today.

Pamela Anderson is a REAL beauty!

Gosh, that Pamela Anderson is a REAL beauty!

It was strange seeing the exhibit in Mexico as a Gringa, as much of his work clearly critiques the US culture of consumption, fashion, “beauty,” and desire. It poses the question of how much is too much?, and when should we find happiness with what we have instead of always wanting more? He has photos of some of the world’s biggest stars in very unconventional, loaded poses that convey a different message from their typical advertising. I wonder how these stars think about being in photos that are pointedly mocking the whole machine designed around and by them that creates an unnatural image of perfect happiness.  (Though I have to acknowledge that even though Mr. LaChapelle shows a very critical look at pop-culture, society and fashion, he also is quite a part of it, hanging with celebrities and enjoying many green fruits of his labor, I am sure.)

As someone who works in marketing, it was also a bit of a wake-up call to myself about my role in creating the desire, and thus leading to the insatiable need for more. More food, more clothes, more beauty products, more house, more car, more, more, more! And I wonder, will this ever change? I also believe this phenomenon is completely tied to today’s economic problems, as our entire economic system is built on the idea that exponential growth is possible and expected for a company to be “successful.” And the only way to achieve that kind of growth year after year is to create more products/services and generate more need for those products/services through marketing.

"I drive a big car for all my shopping" David LaChapelle

"I drive a big car for all my shopping" David LaChapelle

I have this little feeling that sometime, perhaps sooner rather than later, this model is going to change. Rather, it must change. I think (hope?) that slowly people are realizing that the more they have, the less happy they become. Funny how that seems to be an inverse equation.