Play-Doh People: Manipulated Portraits Mimic Old School Horror Movies

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Lumps of modeling clay in shades that match human flesh are globbed into the hollows of what should be faces in this series of portraits mixing photography with sculpture. Artist José Cardoso gets under the viewer’s skin with visuals that disturb and fascinate, perhaps prompting some to reach up and ensure that their own faces are still intact after checking out the entire collection.

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Warped and distorted, with ragged edges, holes from poking fingers and glimpses of bone-like foreign objects embedded within, the Play-Doh takes the place of ordinary features, completely obscuring them or making it seem as if some careless child’s hand has ripped them away. There’s no hint of an attempt at modeling an actual representation of a face – just lumps. (The ones with bits of hair and dirt in the dough are especially cringe-worthy.)

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The series is deliberately reminiscent of the special effects in old school horror movies, especially those of David Cronenberg, and it’s easy to see that influence here. As scary as they may have been at the time, when we look back at films like Naked Lunch, The Fly, Videodrome and Shivers we can see that they clearly made use of a whole lo to rubber and clay to achieve those gory effects. In comparison, Cardoso’s work is quite restrained, but its subtlety is startlingly effective.