Fashion takes flight

One never thinks of everyday beauty items as the leitmotiv for beautiful bird sculptures, but one look at Laurel Roth’s Peacock series and you will never think of false eyelashes, fake nails and nail lacquer the same way again.

By Stephanie Rivers

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Published: Fri 30 Jul 2010, 9:27 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:07 AM

I have always been convinced that make-up, contrived or otherwise, is an art form in and of itself. Has one ever paid attention to the detail and planning that goes into Pat McGrath backstage make-up for her fashion shows? Her work for Dior alone should merit an academy or its equivalent if there was one for the art form. It would seem that I am not alone in my assessment. Artist Laurel Roth clearly shares the appreciation of the art form but in a different light.

Roth’s Peacocks shed light on the beauty of simple elements, things often overlooked and thought of as mundane. The Peacocks showcase rich, multi-coloured plumage made of hair clips, false eyelashes and fake fingernails, painted in hues of peacocks with nail lacquer, that have a surrealism and vitality of a live bird’s feathers. Each plume is painstakingly placed to catch and reflect light and movement of the bird with different sculptures representing them in their day-to-day rituals.

What is most interesting about the sculptures are the correlation to human behaviour and rituals, which were the impetus for their creations. The artist, Laurel Roth, describes it as, “These peacocks borrow human mating plumage, anthropomorphically showcasing our adaptations and natural order as their own. They are made out of fake fingernails, barrettes, nail lacquer, false eyelashes and jewellery, to represent the choices involved in biological processes that are unique to humankind.”

Their purpose may represent biological processes but their unique, entertaining and eye-catching play on mating rituals have made the art and fashion world stand up and take notice. The works give a nod to the master works of Tiffany and to Whistler. Roth’s sculptures often have a human element, nature and its inhabitants intertwined as a theme. This, of course, stems from her love of nature, her work in natural resource conservation and her stint as a park ranger in Marin County, California for 7 years.

In the art world, Roth is known for her use and love of non-traditional and unconventional materials to render her intriguing art pieces. The Peacocks are not the only use of nature as a muse for the artist. In a series that can be best described as ‘beyond Darwin’, she exhibited birds of a different feather called Biodiversity Reclamation Suits for Urban Pigeons. Here, she knitted little suits and disguised pigeons as extinct birds, both increasing the perceived value of pigeons to humans and visually reintroducing bio-diversity to the urban landscape.

But it is the representation of the preening peacocks, nature’s most vain fowl, that has set the fashion sites and blogs on fire around the world. The realism of the poses, the preening, the incorporation of the jewellery and the arching of feathers as though they would take flight at the slightest touch have a true human element, notably fashion. The hues chosen for the plumage are very FW 2010 in their jewel tones and illumination. The rich aubergines, the fiery coppers, the midnight blues, sky blues, greys and hints of gold and black. A fact I am not sure the artist was aware of at the time.

The birds, like fashion as a whole, are about vanity and show. A peacock raises its tail feathers and struts about to be seen, to be noticed and fashion presents itself bi-yearly in an all out extravaganza known as fashion week to preen and strut its wares for all the world, well, the fashion world, to see. A coincidence? Perhaps not.

Laurel’s peacocks and her other works can been seen at, as well as at the Schroeder Romero Gallery (, the Frey Norris Gallery (, the Packer Schopf Gallery (, at Andy Diaz Hope and at Compound 21 (

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