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Why do you wear make-up? Female identity explored at Abertay Digital Graduate Show

22 May 2014

The role make-up plays in women’s lives, and the social pressures they feel to present themselves in a particular way, will be explored in a project at the Abertay Digital Graduate Show from this Friday (23 May).

Claire Mathieson was inspired by a challenge from a flatmate – to remove half her make-up, to see the contrast between her face with and without make-up.

For her Honours project, Claire photographed 15 women with half of their make-up removed, interviewed them about their reasons for wearing make-up, and created composite artworks to reflect the multiple identities of women and the multiple reasons they wear make-up.

Claire’s work will be on show at the Abertay Digital Graduate Show from Friday 23-Monday 26 May. The show is free and open to everyone.

Claire Mathieson 1

Claire Mathieson, Visual Communication & Media Design student, said: “There are many women who are trying to achieve the out-of-reach standards set by the beauty industry and feel pressured to wear make-up.

“More women than I expected use make-up as a tool to empower themselves. Sometimes that's because make-up gives them a confidence boost, some use it as a defence as if they are hiding behind a mask.

“Other times they use it because they feel they are being true to themselves, whether that's representing their style, character or being able to express themselves visually.

“I believe girls should be educated from a young age about the beauty industry and unachievable standards. This will leave make-up as an empowering and expressive tool.”

Claire Mathieson 2

Claire’s research was informed by The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf, and the final artworks she will present at the show include self-photography images layered on a lightbox, a lenticular print composed of multiple stages of make-up application, and a video of the anonymous audio interviews combined with speeded-up footage of Claire applying and removing her make-up.

With the multiple pieces, Claire hopes to engage the widest possible audience in the different reasons behind women’s make-up use, including the multiple negative associations around societal pressures and expectations, as well as the possibilities for creative self-empowerment.

The opening times of the Abertay Digital Graduate Show are:

Friday 23 May, 4-8pm
Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 May, 12-4pm
Monday 26 May, 9am-12pm

Over 180 students will be putting work on show in Abertay University’s main Kydd Building and the Hannah Maclure Centre art gallery, on the top floor of the Student Centre.


For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07972172158 E:


The Abertay Digital Graduate Show is part of the Ignite Dundee festival, which runs from 16-31 May and showcases the very best of Dundee’s creative talent.

Ignite Dundee is a partnership between Abertay University; Dundee Contemporary Arts; Dundee – One City, Many Discoveries; Dundee Rep Theatre; Leisure & Culture Dundee; University of Dundee and V&A Dundee.

For more information, please visit the Ignite Dundee website.

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