‘Photo Therapy: Making a Beautiful Lady’ was a collaboration with Rosy Martin. It came out of her early investigation into what is the feminine and how it is represented. This notion is something she explored heavily in the 1970s, culminating in her 1979 essay called ‘What did you do in the war, Mummy.’
Between 1972 and 1978, Spence collected thousands of images from mass media sources, things like magazines, newspapers, books, street hoardings, cartoons and film posters. It became apparent to Jo that the construction of feminine identity was closely tied to a vision of idealized beauty, which, by achieving this, would lead to catching the right man. This was an ideal which Jo herself was subject to, not just from society and mass media, but also from her own family.
In this sequence of 13 images, Jo is seen in the bathtub, dying her hair at home. The red dye mixes in with the water, creating what appears to be a blood bath. She subsequently cleans this with Jax, which was a common household cleaner. Jo frequently used household cleaning fluids and objects as props early on in her career, most famously with her ‘Remodelling Photo History’ series, which incorporates Fairy liquid and other found objects from the kitchen, to create a new form of still lifes. With this work, Spence quite literally becomes the domestic goddess in her pursuit of being a beautiful lady, so she merges the erotic with the domestic in a very funny but odd way.
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