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Ellen O’Shea was born in Saint Louis, Missouri. She earned a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from Webster University in 2017 and has exhibited work at Gallery Zeke, Grease Three, the Granite City Art and Design District, Bermuda Project, and the LaVerne Krause Gallery. Using a variety of mediums, from sculpture to mixed media installations, she aims to disrupt the veneer of feminine culture, revealing the underlying mechanisms of manipulation at play.

Ellen O’Shea’s work investigates the intricate trappings of societal influences that shape identities, particularly through the lens of female consumerism. In a world inundated with messages designed to manipulate desires, she surveys the pervasive phenomenon of being brainwashed by the allure of paraphernalia.

As a female artist, O’Shea possesses acute awareness of how corporations capitalize on women, feeding them a constant stream of superficial ideals and materialistic desires. She occupies a unique position as both an outside observer and an inside participant, critically examining the dynamics of the beauty advertisement industry. With the rising popularity of ‘slugging’—a routine involving excessive layers of moisturizer applied to the face—she finds herself drawn to this trend while simultaneously questioning its underlying impulse.

Traditionally, women are conditioned to covet shiny, glossy things, often equating them with personal worth and fulfillment. Yet, they are bombarded with conflicting messages about empowerment. The act of slugging transforms one into a sticky object, conforming to a social trend, yet potentially becoming a source of repulsion. O’Shea confronts these paradoxes, adopting the notion that embracing the grotesque nature of slugging may lead to enlightenment.

She uses feminine iconography as a starting point. The mudflap girl dressed in reflective material is the point of origin. She is shiny, new, and full of promises. As the narrative progresses, the metamorphosis takes place, a moment of chrysalis. AI generated faces covered in a sheen melt slowly into goo, decomposing. The images are cut close in, obscuring a sense of space and time.

The final phase is the slug. The body of the slug poses seductively, harking back to the original reclined gesture of the mudflap girl. The slug is content, it has survived the transition. It transfigured into its final state of gloss, just like the skincare ethos intended. In the labyrinth of societal expectations, the female must be a shapeshifter, a canvas for endless manipulation. It bends and twists under the pressure of degradation.

Women morph into fleeting ideals, existing between the lines of conformity. Yet, the period of change from the male gaze to bodily acceptance brings a sense of peace. We are witnessing not the cliché transmutation of a caterpillar to butterfly, but a transcendence from female to slug. It is a journey of liberation, a reclaiming of one's innate worth and authenticity.