Kelsey Olson: About Face (and Figure)
Here at the Judgment of Paris, we have always considered plus-size models to be living works of art, given that their well-fed physiques correspond precisely to those of the fleshy goddesses whom artists depicted as embodiments of ideal beauty throughout Western history.
How fitting, then, that a host of images of the most beautiful plus-size model working today will soon be appearing in a fine-art gallery.
Starting April 9th, 2011, the Loft at Liz's--a gallery space in the Miracle Mile district of Los Angeles--will be hosting an exhibition titled About Face: A New Perspective on Photographic Portraiture.
An informative article outlines the particulars of the exhibition, noting that one of the presenters will be photographer Wahb Mabkhout, whose contribution is described as follows:
"To end the size-zero era" is certainly an admirable goal, and working with "eight curvaceous California models" is an especially fine way of achieving it. And if one of those eight happens to be the gorgeous Kelsey Olson (Dorothy Combs/Heffner, size 16), then one knows that this photographer is a bona fide genius.
So far, Mr. Mabkhout has released a number of behind-the-scenes images from his About Face shoot, showing him being inspired by his robust muses.
If this is the outfit that Kelsey wore for the project, then it would be worth travelling many miles to see the exhibition. Her golden tresses spill over her shoulders, while her ever-so-blue eyes shine like sapphires. The red lip colour vividly recalls the Technicolour images of the '50s era that Mr. Mabkhout credits as an inspiration. The model's soft, buxom curves are seductively visible. But most sensual of all is the suggestion that the images may exhibt Kelsey's most alluring figure feature, her opulent 39" waist.
Another image shows the photographer interacting with Miss Olson in a way that recalls Whitney's Thompson's shoot with Nigel Barker during the penultimate episode of America's Next Top Model, Cycle 10--the one and only time when a plus-size model won the competition. Kelsey's pose is thrillingly vain and haughty. She is completely in command of the situation, while the photographer (lipstick-bedecked from his dual-kiss photograph, above) takes the opportunity to act on a fantasy that is cherished by every red-blooded man in America: i.e., to touch, ever so gently, Miss Olson's soft, luscious waist. The sight of her golden tresses cascading over her shoulders is intoxicating.
The final three behind-the-scenes photographs show Kelsey with an updo, and while fans definitely prefer Miss Olson with her fair hair freely tumbling over her person, long, loose and luxurious, the updo does provide an opportunity to admire her high cheekbones (softened by facial fullness) and apple cheeks. This is the most relaxed and playful of the images, a fine contrast to the carnal allure of the previous photograph.
For these four black-and-white photos, one will note that Kelsey has removed her jacket and donned a lacy sheath. One is hard pressed to determine which look is more stunning. The sheath is a very feminine item, tantalizing in how it offers a suggestion of the model's physique, yet the jacket bares her sumptuous waist. Her fair skin veritably shines with its own light, as if she were lit from within. The pearls are a distinctively '50s element, reminiscent of Kim Novak. Her buxom curves appear particularly alluring in this pose (and goodness, doesn't she know it . . .).
Observe the sheer sensual energy that Kelsey channels in these images. She positively demands that the viewer fixate on her steamy blue eyes, heavily lidded to channel smouldering passion.
Based on these behind-the-scenes images, Wahb Mabkhout's "About Face" project (which should, just as well, be titled "About Figure," for it is surely Miss Olson's luscious figure, as much as her angelic face, that will be the highlight of the exhibit) will be an outstanding event, not to be missed. If these are merely the outtakes, the behind-the-scenes photos, then just imagine how seductive the actual portraits in the show will be.
We applaud him both for his aesthetic taste in recognizing the true shape of feminine beauty, and for his keen insight. For surely there is no better way "to end the size-zero era" than by showcasing the luxurious, full-figured feminine ideal that said era tragically displaced. And certainly there is no better model to demonstrate the superiority of Classical curvaceousness to androgynous starvation than the alluring Kelsey Olson, the muse of beauty par excellence.
- About Face: April 9th–May 10th
''Curves are the body's natural art''
Kelsey is so gorgeous. If I were anywhere near the West Coast -- heck, if I were west of Chicago -- I would definitely attend this.
It's wonderful to see plus-size models being seen in the contest of an art exhibition. This definitely underscores their identity as living works of art, reviving the Classical concept of beauty that Western art celebrated throughout its history, from the time of the Greeks through to the 20th century.
I still remember the phrase once used by Addition-Elle, "Curves are the body's natural art." This exhibit will testify to that idea.
I cannot wait to see what the images that will make up the exhibition itself will look like. These behind-the-scenes photos are already outstanding.
Re: Kelsey Olson: About Face (and Figure)
Here's something truly amazing.
As if the prospect of Kelsey Olson in the forthcoming About Face show wasn't thrilling enough on its own, based on the gorgeous photos that have already been issued, photographer Wahb Mabkhout has just released an exciting behind-the-scenes teaser video of the show.
And when I say "teaser," I mean "teaser"! The video flies by in a flurry of gorgeous images. You can see glimpses of Kelsey at 0:39 and more substantially at 0:58. WOW. She looks fantastic.
Also, Rosie Mercado appears in a brief flash in the video.
This will be a showcase of plus-size beauty like none ever seen before. Not to be missed.
Re: Kelsey Olson: About Face (and Figure)
With its percussive soundtrack and deft editing, the teaser video is a dynamic presentation of the shooting process that went into creating this unprecedented art exhibition. The video shows the photographer, Wahb Mabkhout, skillfully coaxing his models into sensual yet tasteful poses, like a conductor summoning a fine performance out of an orchestra.
Keep in mind that this clip is indeed a mere "teaser," while the complete video (as Mr. Mabkhout has stated),
The video tantalizingly suggests what the project's final images might look like. Early on, we see Kelsey being made up for the shoot. Observe the smoky eyes--a darker shade than Miss Olson usually wears. This extreme close-up also reveals, more precisely a Polaroid ever could, the natural perfection of her skin.
While the stylist arranges Kelsey's blonde hair, the model gazes aside with a languid look. Her blood-red lip colour gives her a haunting, dramatic allure.
The stylist briefly interrupts his work to admire the spun-gold beauty of Kelsey's fairy-tale tresses, even as Miss Olson continues to gaze aside with an indolent sensuality, as if she were mentally configuring her vixenish persona for the shoot, like a method actress preparing to inhabit her forthcoming role.
As the camera views Kelsey from a different angle, it records a very different set of emotions. In these stills, Kelsey's beauty is even more pronounced, because she appears irresistibly troubled. This inward-looking, soul-searching gaze reveals the model's endearing vulnerability. As if in concert with her emotions, her hair is now more softly curled, more doll-like and feminine, although the blood-red lip colour carries over the minx persona from the previous stills.
Next, the camera records the gaze that has won Kelsey legions of admirers: open-hearted and vulnerable, displaying the doe-eyed helplessness of a young girl. These two photos, the one above and the one below, reveal why Miss Olson is so effective in seductive contexts: even amid the dark allure, she still discloses an undercurrent of softness, a desire to be protected and cared for. This undisguised neediness engages and involves the viewer in a way that a harsh, domineering look would not.
A last-minute adjustment from the wardrobe stylist offers a memorable look at Kelsey's seductive outfit. In subsequent images, the neckline rides higher up on the model's shoulders. But in this image, it sits captivatingly, precariously low, creating an enticing tension. The presence of the stylist in the image adds a narrative suggestion, as if Kelsey were a princess sitting at her dressing table while her servant arranges her finery. The necklace exudes vintage luxury. The look in the model's eyes is deeply affecting, a gaze that mixes gentle innocence with a definite sense of purpose. She seems to be reflecting upon a troubling course of action, as if the were Queen Louise of Prussia--armed with nothing but the beauty of her person and the pureness of her heart--about to petition Napoleon not to ravage her homeland.
The first image from the actual shoot shows Kelsey engaging in her unique manner of coquetry, presenting an inviting look that is free of any carnality, but is seductively sincere. The fairness of her complexion is dazzling, a pure white skin tone that gives the model a delicate quality, for all of her physical robustness. The lacy top offers a discreet glimpse of decolletage.
The following still is not only the most important screencap from the video, but also the most size-positive presentation of Kelsey's beauty to date. Such an image already establishes the About Face project as a resounding success and a boundary-pushing triumph, even before it opens. Not only does this image showcase the soft fullness at the model's neck-and-shoulder area, but it also celebrates her most gorgeous figure feature, her opulent 39" waist, as no image has ever done before. The pose even reveals the soft fullness along the model's back. Her expression is openly appetitive.
A moment later, the model deftly shifts into a more deliberately voluptuous pose. Even at her most consciously seductive, Kelsey always remains chic. These screencaps display the effectiveness of the styling in a way that the previous images did not. The lacy, body-conscious top embraces and defines Kelsey's soft physique, lingering over every curve, yet preserving her modesty as well, offering a tantalizing suggestion of the figure beneath the fabric.
As Graham noted, one of the special surprises that the teaser offers is that it reveals the presence of size-28 goddess Rosie Mercado among the About Face models.
The video clips of Rosie do not capture her overall figure, but they do reveal that she was given an especially attractive outfit for the shoot, perhaps the most recognizably '40s/'50s-themed attire worn by any of the models for About Face. Rosie looks wonderful in this vintage look--which is no surprise, since the fashions of the day were made for curvy bodies. In this screencap, she adopts a gently flirtatious pinup pose, entirely characteristic of the time period.
In addition to praising Kelsey's soft beauty and Rosie's dark sensuality, we must also acknowledge the extraordinary vision and talent of the man who made About Face possible: Wahb Mabkhout. He selected the perfect goddesses for his project and chose the ideal concept: a '40s/'50s pin-up shoot, relating the models to an era when fuller-figured women still represented the ideal of beauty. This vintage context also offered marvellous options for wardrobe and styling, because the pin-up attire of the period was not as blatant as the Maxim-like wardrobe of today, but much more discreet, keeping a goddess's figure half-revealed and half-concealed. This voluptuous mixture of exposure and modesty creates a tasteful seductiveness that is far more exciting than a garishly clinical modern display.
The idea of full-figured models as artistic muses is, of course, right in tune with the theme of the Judgment of Paris. With About Face, Wahb Mabkhout has bridged the gap between photography and painting, between fashion and art, by shooting his models with the technical facility of a fashion photographer, yet presenting them in an art-gallery context.
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