SOMA: The Post Modern Aesthete


Gina Brooke’s endless reconstructions elevate the art of beautification beyond the purely deconstructionist project.

“I approach the idea of creating beauty from the perspective of creating art,” says Gina Brooke, the celebrity makeup artist and Shu Uemura Art Director who’s achieved her greatest notoriety from continually reinventing the “queen of reinvention” – Madonna. Brooke proclaims the pop icon as her creative “muse,” precisely because they are fueled by the same fire: the constant drive to “defy the norm.” Bearing the mark of the iconoclast, Brooke’s miraculous feats of lash architecture and utterly transformative contouring didn’t come from thinking snug inside the box. She approaches her work with the same spirit of radical invention that galvanized the recently passed Shu Uemura himself, who frequently preached,”Never stop thinking, improving, and innovating,” which Brooke says, “has become my mantra and inspires me every day.”

Her “natural look” preference seems at odds with her whimsical and, at times, outlandish feather and twill constructions in radioactive hues. But there’s no boxing this beautician in, who savors understatement, while absconding into freewheeling fantasy. Perhaps it wasn’t serendipity, but this penchant for adventure that propelled her into her first photo shoot in 1996. Brooke, then an aspiring fashion designer at FIT, took a fateful detour when she casually agreed to stand in as makeup artist for a fellow student’s project. The photographer immediately took notice of her budding virtuosity. Soon there after she found herself careening into a new career, where adventurousness would grow to verge on revolutionary. To the skeptic’s claim that art and beauty don’t always seamlessly align, Brooke posits a stoic refutation: “I see beauty in all forms of art. Art is beauty.” What may resonate as the myopic essentialism of classical aesthetics from others, rings profoundly true coming from this new-age aesthete, who bypasses the po-mo project of erasing existing lines, only to perpetually devise new ones. As fashionability and its panderers suffer ever-narrowing confinement, Brooke roams free of the vagaries of popular culture, simply because, “I don’t believe in trends.”

Not to say that she’s at all disconnected from the world. She’s drawn upon French Impressionists, bakery confections and Sesame Street’s Snuffleupagus to create what she terms “functional art – to incorporate awareness.” Her last collection, Muse, was inspired by the late photojournalist Dan Eldon’s global humanitarianism, and his “love of art and passion for life.”

So look closer next time. The handiwork of Gina Brooke we see gracing the pages of W magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair and Vogue, may, in a sense, be abstract incarnations of various socio-cultural realities that surround us, each composition a piece-of-life rendering that shakes our notions of art, beauty and representation. Who would’ve ever predicted cosmetics converging with politics, Impressionism and pastries? Talk about working makeup magic. So, who’s the real queen of reinvention?