The most common reaction to Ivonne Thein's photos is horror. The women in them are emaciated, wrapped in medical bandages and contorted. Hipbones, elbows and shoulder blades jut out as if begging for release from their diseased bodies.
The wall text offers some comfort: The photos are digitally manipulated.
The exhibition, which goes on display today at the Goethe-Institut Washington, is titled "Thirty-Two Kilos," which refers to the weight (about 70 pounds) of a French actress who posed naked for ads condemning anorexia.
Thein's decision to obscure the models' faces forces the viewer to focus on their bodies, particularly the exaggerated limbs, says Al Miner, a curator at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, who will be on a panel tonight at the Goethe-Institut to discuss "Thirty-Two Kilos."
"It's clear that she's mocking or appropriating poses that we see in edgier haute couture editorial work. . . . They look uncomfortable and bizarre. The poses are a reminder that they're a critique of the fashion industry and not just weight loss."