All Press Releases for October 03, 2009

An Increasing Intersection between Art and Plastic Surgery

By Matthew Candelaria - Many feminists immediately reject the notion of plastic surgery as being another example of men's control over women's bodies.

    CHICAGO, IL, October 03, 2009 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Many feminists immediately reject the notion of plastic surgery as being another example of men's control over women's bodies. Most surgeons are men, most patients are women, and these women are supposedly having surgery to live up to standards imposed by a patriarchal society. One professor recently has gone so far as to say that both eating disorders and cosmetic plastic surgery are two of the "Self-centered, self-hatred, self-destructive behaviors all related to trying to achieve the perfect body."

However, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of women flocking to have plastic surgery, one artist stood up very publicly to tell a different story about plastic surgery. French artist Orlan is a feminist who sees plastic surgery as being empowering for women. She has undergone many plastic surgeries and transformed her appearance. She says of her surgeries, "My goal was to be different, strong; to sculpt my own body to reinvent the self." It is this narrative of self-control that plastic surgeons are trying to convey not just to their patients, but to society as a whole to attempt to construct a positive image for their much-maligned profession.

Art or Science?

One of the first maneuvers that plastic surgeons have tried to improve their profile in society was to represent the artistic side of plastic surgery. In its generic form, it appears on many plastic surgery practices' websites, such as Palmetto Plastic Surgery in Charleston, North Carolina, where the home page claims, "Plastic Surgery [sic] is both a medical and artistic endeavor." It further claims that the practice offers patients a "balance of artistry, surgical skills and medical judgment, blended with the insights of collaboration" between the practice's surgeons. This is partly a commercial ploy, but it is partly a call for respect, one that is matched by campaigns among American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) members to stress that plastic surgeons have additional training, whereas cosmetic surgeons can be any surgeon that chooses the label and sometimes includes dentists, ophthalmologists, and obstetrician-gynecologists, among others.

In a more refined attempt to push the artistic angle of plastic surgery, a New York plastic surgeon opened an art exhibit in a non-profit space in Manhattan to exhibit his work. In his pamphlet, he distinguished some procedures, like a facelift, that he said were workmanly, as opposed to those that were artistic, like a nose job. The exhibit was termed "I Am Art," and it presented before and after pictures of men and women who received plastic surgery procedures. The critic viewing the exhibit found some of it to be "as agreeable as lingerie advertisements," and other parts no worse than contemporary paintings.

The choice of titles was disingenuous, though, because this art lacks what Orlan's art had: a real assertion of identity by the person undergoing the surgery. The exhibit was designed and created by doctors, primarily for themselves and their circle. It reenacts the old dichotomies that are so problematic for the image of plastic surgery: Man-Woman, surgeon-patient, artist-subject.

The Three-Body Solution

A new approach is being attempted by Chicago plastic surgeon Dr. Otto J. Placik, one that sidesteps many of the problems experienced by the New York show. As a surgeon whose website extensively promotes labiaplasty and other forms of female genital surgery, Dr. Placik may immediately run afoul of feminist critics of plastic surgery for this intimate invasion of female anatomy.

But in throwing a major gala to celebrate artistic photographs of some of his patients, called "Gallery Placik," Dr. Placik has captured something of what Orlan was seeking to demonstrate: the empowerment of the surgical subject who voluntarily seeks breast augmentation or liposuction for her- or himself. He accomplishes this partly by immediately removing the focus from him as artist by collaborating with another artist of at least equal stature, Smithsonian-exhibited photographer Bruce Mondschain. In so doing, he immediately creates a space that is trilateral and has the potential for equality among all three members. In describing the goal of the exhibition, Dr. Placik further carves out the space for his patients,

We wanted to celebrate a shared vision of three 'artists': a fusion of our collective aspirations. It starts with the individuals who have a goal of what they want their bodies to look like either from a rejuvenative or image-changing approach; many have done all they can to enhance their bodies through non-surgical means like clothing, diet and exercise.

Then he further describes the work they have all done as equal parts in creating the final product. In describing the preparation for the exhibit, he portrays it as a continuation of the goals of plastic surgery, saying, "my patients enjoying even more self-confidence after modeling for Bruce."

The gala celebration may or may not make a significant impact on the general public's view of plastic surgery and the men and women who seek it, but at the very least it does seem to have contributed to the sense of empowerment among Dr. Placik's patients, and maybe positive effects will be seen by other patients as well.

Dr. Placik invites you to learn more about Gallery Placik and his plastic surgery by visiting the website of his Chicago-area plastic surgery practice.


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