Karolina Sussland Skewers Mad Ave Vision of Everyman in Photo Exhibition at Modified Arts

Whatever possessed artist Karolina Sussland to create photographic take-offs on ridiculous stock photo images used to represent the average Joe by graphic designers, art directors, and clueless advertisers? Sussland's satiric send ups sit side by side with the Shuttterstock commercial images that inspired them in an exhibition that just opened on Third Friday at Modified Arts

Sussland says she was initially inspired by several ads put out by Occupy Wall Street that purported to show examples of the 99 percent of the country who is unfairly bearing the monetary burden of corporate greed, unwinnable, politically inspired wars and inequitable taxation of the middle and lower classes as high rollers skate by unscathed. 

Photos of the representative 99 percent -- poised, pretty, perky and polite -- were pretty ridiculous, she says: "I am the 99 percent and I certainly don't look like that."

Thus was born Sussland's latest series of self-portraits mimicking those staged images of insanely happy men and women who exist only in some universe parallel to the grungy one most of us, somewhat grounded in reality, inhabit. 

We see a perfectly coiffed, alabaster-skinned blonde smiling broadly as she's just about to take a bite of salad from a bowl she's cradling. And a brunette beauty chomping on a gigantic lettuce leaf. And a young stud holding his chin while apparently thinking deeply profound thoughts. Then there's my favorite -- the young couple cuddling and laughing gaily as they are cooking together in a kitchen. 

​Sussland skewers them all in her accompanying self-images aping the same set-ups - and they're pretty hilarious. 

​Eschewing make-up and retouching, Sussland's photos capture the reality that's always airbrushed out of existence before being spoon-fed to a consuming audience who definitely knows better. They also take me back to a game we played as kids when we were bored; it involved trying to simulate ads we found in magazines. 

That same playfully creative spirit, sprinkled with a touch of goofy madness, shines through, bright and clear, in Sussland's memorable series. 

Karolina Sussland's photos, as well as a new series by photographer Ernie Button, are on display at Modified Arts, 407 East Roosevelt Street, through December 10. And if you can't squeeze in an actual gallery visit, check out Sussland's website,, where you can see a number of her wacky images.

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Kathleen Vanesian

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