Kelly Durette: Horrific Beauty

In many ways, Kelly Durette's illustrations look as though they could easily fit among the pages of a fashion or bridal magazine.  The women she draws are exquisite, eyes focused, with hands grazing the curves of their cheeks.  Yet there is one distinct difference between Durette's women and the ones that often appear on the covers of Vogue -- hers are not among the living.  The curls of their hair are held in place by decorative bones, skulls and tissue are exposed by a decaying face, and their lips are cracked with age.  Durette has taken the looks of models and flipped them, emphasizing macabre elements to both challenge and promote the beauty of her subjects.

The Ontario-based, self-taught artist has often had her work categorized in the "Day of the Dead" genre.  Of course, the skulls and balance of bright tones through primary and colored pencils speaks to a certain aesthetic.  But Durette's focus transcends the popular style by having a particular focus on the anatomy of her subjects. She tells the alternative art magazine Creep Machine, "I have always been fascinated by medical illness, anatomy and what happens to the body after death.   It’s not meant to be creepy, but rather to draw these beautiful women and add a touch of the macabre without losing the overall sexiness." Consequently, her work generally inspires a realistic feel, as opposed to the painterly qualities of many "Day of the Dead" pieces. Durette’s work literally feels as though its subjects are decaying; the pinks of the muscles can be seen past the paling skin.

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