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make up for performance

Ásta (River) Olafsdottir

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I’m Ásta, most people here know me as River.

I am a second-year international student from Iceland studying Makeup for Media and Performance. One of my favourite projects was one I did last semester, Fantasy and Contemporary transformation. We all drew a card from a hat with the main aspects of our final makeup creation. The project was to create a theatrical makeup transformation for a Love Island style dating show, but the characters were all damnations. I drew the damnation Lust. On the card was also an artist whose art or style had to be represented in some way in the final design, I had Munch. Throughout the unit we learnt skills and techniques to apply to our final projects. I’ve always loved fantasy and mythology, so I very quickly turned my research toward sirens, succubi, and other mythical beings that are associated with lust. In my research I found that a lot of these female characters have origins in the myth of Lilith. Lilith was Adam’s first wife, and is the queen of hell. She is a symbol of power, sexuality and lust.

My first drafts were a bit subtle for a theatre character of this nature. My designs evolved into something much more graphic and I ended up using elements of both in my final designs. Munch’s painting style and use of colour was the inspiration for the colours and texture of the makeup. I used wool yarn to make a wig and cardboard boxes to make horns. The latex prosthetic piece on the forehead was inspired by coral, flowers and as you may have guessed, vaginas. I wanted it to be suggestive without being graphic. And yes, I am aware of the pun about the horns - I won't pretend that wasn't just a little bit on purpose.

This project more than any other made me realise how much work and research goes into the creation of characters. I spent just as much time researching mythical creatures, artists, and visuals for the design as I did on contextual research for the physical makeup transformation. I had to change my designs and approach many times and dive into research on how similar things might have been done before to create a design that works in real life as a theatre makeup, and not just as a design on paper.

I really loved the whole process of creating this makeup. The hours spent on knitting wool into pantyhose, sculpting prosthetics, and figuring out how to get from idea to a finished character transformation.

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