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Cosmetic Appeal

Throwing Shade's lipstick art could make traditionalists blush.

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When Dott Schneider wants to enhance her artwork, she grabs a tube of lipstick and a packet of hair dye and makes fun of -- and has fun with -- makeup. Schneider, a French-trained abstract impressionist who's used her orange-dyed pigtails as paintbrushes, conceived 1300 Gallery's Throwing Shade, a five-artist, 40-piece "visualtorial."

It's a tongue-in-cheek op-ed piece, she says, that confronts society's insistence that women shouldn't step out of the front door without being dolled up. The concept sprouted four years ago, when Schneider was at her brother's house, drawing a spray of tulips. She asked her sister-in-law for some colored pencils. "She didn't have any," Schneider explains. "But she emerged with a tackle box filled with lipstick and eyeliner."

Schneider began to experiment with makeup and discovered that it was no different from working with oil-based paint. Its texture was thick and greasy. It spread smoothly and evenly. It even smelled faintly similar. Then it hit her: Just as makeup makes a woman's face more colorful, it could bring a blank canvas to life.

Schneider's idea evolved into a parody of "the new Fauxhemians," seemingly self-assured women who feel naked, even invisible, without foundation on their skin, streaks of rouge on their cheeks, and gleams of gloss on their lips. "What we'd like to accomplish is the empowering feeling of taking something negative and giving it a sense of humor," she explains.

Take the "Helen of Troy" series, a set of six latex masks inspired by the mythological Greek enchantress, in which Schneider and graphic artist Mary Traverse parade female stereotypes. "I'm tired of hearing people who are more hip than they'd care to admit stand there and say they don't get it," she says. "This isn't trendy. Makeup has been around forever."

In a way, Schneider's fulfilled her mission. Throwing Shade is a fresh face for cosmetics.

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