Date of Award

8-2013

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

Intermedia

Advisor

Deborah Wing-Sproul

Second Committee Member

Marcia Joy Douglas

Third Committee Member

Laurie E. Hicks

Abstract

My research efforts span art, anthropology, sociology, psychology, history and women’s studies, as I explore the elasticity of what is perceived as “normal” behavior within the temporary boundaries created by ritual activities. In my ongoing research I focus on contemporary American wedding culture with a particular interest in how the current climate of expected perfection effects the experience of an individual who decides to engage in the wedding process as a bride. This thesis explores the rise of perfectionism in contemporary American wedding culture by examining the factors that contribute to the desire to have a “perfect wedding.” It explores two aspects of the wedding ritual which effect the bride’s desire to embark on a quest for perfection: the pageantry associated with the public performative nature of the wedding ritual and the external expectations to fit into a very narrowly defined, culturally prescribed role of “bride” and the private aspect which reflects how the bride internalizes those external pressures and develops an internal desire to identify as a bride. I explore the prevalence of a phenomenon, which I have coined as “perfection hysteria,” that often ensues as brides engage in a quest for perfection, striving to achieve the status of a “perfect bride” and have a “perfect wedding.” The examples of perfection hysteria that I have isolated in my research are the “bridentity crisis,” the “bridezilla” phenomenon, the prevalence of “brideorexia” and the growing trend of “bridalplasty.”

As an interdisciplinary researcher and artist, I raise questions about the expectations of perfection that are feverishly propagated by the wedding industry and eagerly consumed and self-imposed by American brides. I urge the viewer of my work to question the roles society and self, play in constructing identity and to rethink established conventions that are blindly transmitted and reinforced through ritual and ritualized behavior. My thesis project, My Wedding Album: Perfect/Imperfect (Interior/Exterior) reframes components of this popular and often unquestioned ritual through the integration of performance, installation, textile, sound, photography, videography, text, and audience engagement. Modem wedding albums are marketed as investments, legacies and heirlooms with the promise to preserve the wedding event so that bridal couples can “relive their perfect day” and immortalize the wedding event for future generations. While stating that their purpose is to preserve history, these albums fall short of accurately portraying the complexity inherit in contemporary wedding rituals and conform to the “perfect wedding” narrative through their heavily edited and often retouched prescribed series of “must have” shots. The imagery that adorns the archival pages of the modem wedding album propagate the perfection myths of bridehood and pass down these unrealistic expectations from generation to generation. It is my hope that by sharing my own perfect/imperfect story, I will encourage others to share their stories of both perfection and imperfection and together we will begin to demystify the wedding process, build a realistic history for future brides and relieve some of the perfection hysteria felt by brides.

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