Anika Smulovitz, Lip Liners, 2003
There's a moment in Girl with a Pearl Earring in which the young narrator, Griet, finds herself in the subject's chair of her employer, Dutch Renaissance master Johannes Vermeer. Griet is his maid, but her keen eye and quiet demeanor have allured Vermeer, and they are both drawn into a complicated, silent love affair of mutual contingency, which leads to her becoming the subject of Vermeer's most seducing portrait. In this particular moment, Vermeer begins painting Griet with the request that she part her lips and leave her mouth open, just ever so slightly. It is that gesture of appearing to be in between the moment of speaking and catching glances that makes the painting as striking as it is.
It's a seductive scene to say the least, and I always find myself going back to that moment because although they can go unnoticed, relaxed lips are truly distinctive. That's why Jeweler/fine artist Anika Smulovitz's vision for Lip Liners is so intensely spot-on:
"My background as a jeweler has led me to explore lips in the context of the interrelationship between the body, adornment, and issues of intimacy... The line that is created where the lips meet when a person’s mouth is in a relaxed pose is almost as unique and individual as a fingerprint. I want to accentuate this distinctive and compelling part of the body, bringing attention to the lips without interference or constraint."
So check it: each of these sterling silver pieces- more attuned to sculpture than jewelry- are custom fitted. When I first saw these photos, my initial thought was "Hmm, that looks interesting, but come on that can not possibly be practical" but to my complete surprise, they're designed in a way that makes them totally wearable thanks to two hooks that are custom built to fit the bottom lip. Would I wear them out and about? Certainly no. But that's not the point.
I don't have to say these pieces are sensual, it's a quality that is totally and completely inherent when considering anything in relation to the mouth; but the rendered, glistening polish of the silver, he shape that resembles beaded liquid on the mouth, the sheer simplicity of the line: it's all gloriously sexy, nearly pornographic in a totally great way. The artist has also chosen to have (what appear to be) only men's mouths model her pieces. Perhaps as a way to stir intrigue towards the notion of typically gendered intimacy and closeness. The lack of fullness in her subjects' lips interacts with the liners in a way that makes them more distinctive as well. To say the least, there are indeed a ton of delicious moments worth analyzing within this project.
Smulovitz strives to convey the "non-neutrality" of materials and their relationship to the body, and Lip Liners is completely successful in that it elevates not only how individual our bodies are, but also how the slightest part of us can be beautiful, just when we don't even realize it.