Megan Koth is an artist currently based in Ventura, California. She received her Master of Fine Arts from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. She currently works as the graduate program manager and as a lecturer in the UCSB Department of Art. Her work resides in private collections throughout the United States, and has appeared in Voyage-Phoenix, Lum Artzine, LA Weekly, Hyperallergic, and the Phoenix New Times.

Through a queer, feminist lens, Koth addresses the often fraught relationship that can exist between the topography and interiority of the body. Viral internet imagery, contemporary makeup trends, and the traditions of painting and self-portraiture converge to address themes of body horror, obsessive self-evaluation and maintenance, as well as the liminal space of self-care. Drawing from her own experiences with chronic illness and medical trauma, Koth interrogates how personal grooming in the form of skincare and beauty rituals can be a crucial exterior reaction to interior anxieties towards exerting, and sometimes losing, control over one’s body and health.

You can also find her on instagram @megakoth

Artist Statement

My work explores the often fraught relationship that women have to beauty rituals, and how they navigate the contradictory spaces of self-care, grooming, and consumption. To enact a ritual that makes one feel ‘in control’ over an ultimately fallible, imperfect body carries a certain catharsis that can be addictive. But the oppressive historical (and ever-present) cruelty of beauty standards and the struggle of women to approximate them can often turn these moments of adornment into self-defeating experiences of ritualized alienation.
I have noticed how the process of painting myself takes me through the same stages of making myself up, with the attendant processes of de-familiarization, focused examination, and ultimately satisfaction (or despair with failure) as the process of doing an extensive beauty ritual. As Lionel Shriver describes the sensation of feeling beautiful, it is a “short-lived, little crack high”—and very similar to my elation when finishing a ‘good’ painting. Painting one’s face in the mirror, and also literally painting one’s face on a canvas, both involve this confrontation with the body, with its objectification in the gaze of another, and myself looking at myself as an object. Afterwards, there is the confused subsequent navigation of an ambivalent, contested space to chase this fulfilling ‘high.’
Examination of oneself in the mirror is entering a liminal space—rife with potential and desire, and sometimes terror. Self-care is to live in the fantasy of control, while acknowledging its ultimate failure, since marginal change is always charged with the desire for and failure to truly achieve dramatic transformation. Through my work, I am crafting a visual language and acknowledgement of this confrontation in the hopes that this material labor will lend further understanding to the abstract experience, and labor, of navigating this liminal and ritualized space as a woman artist and painter of women.


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