Images by O. Rufus Lovett and Leah DeVun
Borrowing its title from the 1972 documentary by Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt and the famed slogan of the Kilgore Rangerettes, Beauty Knows No Pain addresses the performance and perception of femininity in contemporary American culture.
Texas photographer O. Rufus Lovett´s iconic black and white photographs of the Kilgore Rangerettes dance drill team reveal a long-standing tradition of competition, discipline and teamwork on the Kilgore College campus. Created in 1939 by the legendary Miss Gussie Nell Davis, the ´Rettes were the first group of their kind and continue to be the most celebrated drill team in the nation, while attracting hundreds of aspiring young women to the junior college for auditions. Those selected pursue the achievement of youthful glamour, uniformity and synchronicity. Capturing the enthusiasm and energy of these young women in their timeless uniforms, Lovett depicts an iconic Texas subculture that has been a source of feminine inspiration and camaraderie for generations.
While Lovett´s images of the ´Rettes reflect the longstanding regional rituals conducted in the small town of Kilgore, Leah DeVun´s studio portraits depict an incarnation of contemporary girl culture performed by thousands of youths across America. Debuted by the Disney Channel in 2006, "Hannah Montana" is the alter ego performer of 16 year-old Miley Cyrus. Broadcast daily in the US, UK and Canada, the program opens with the theme song "Best of Both Worlds," following which young viewers can watch Cyrus´s Cinderella transformation from "the girl next door" into an iconic teen pop sensation. The program is part of a multi-billion dollar industry which includes musical tours and a glittering array of props sold by the toy company Hasbro. DeVun´s Houston-based models (between the ages of 4-11 years old) dress up as Montana and accessorize with the props they use to transform themselves.
This juxtaposition of tradition and pop culture depicts just two incarnations of how American girls and women desire to embrace celebrity and femininity. While they conform their bodies, dress, and personalities to different versions of culturally endorsed gender standards, one can see upon closer examination their enduring and charming individuality.
- Madeline Yale, HCP Executive Director & Curator
Opening Reception at HCP Friday, February 27, 2009 6-8pm
There will be a screening of Elliott Erwitt´s film Beauty Knows No Pain, a lecture by O. Rufus Lovett, and a Kilgore Rangerettes performance at the Museum of Fine Arts Brown Auditorium on Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 6.30pm.
Available for purchase at HCP
By O. Rufus Lovett
Foreword by Elliott Erwitt
Introduction by Katy Vine
Kilgore Rangerettes - $50
Weeping Mary - $45