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DeLuxe

2004–05

Ellen Gallagher, DeLuxe, 2004–05. Mixed media, sixty images: 13 × 10 1/2 in. (33 × 26.7 cm) each; 84 1/2 × 179 in. (214.6 × 444.5 cm) overall. Edition no. 1/20. Printed and published by Two Palms Press, New York. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase  2006.340a-hhh
Ellen Gallagher is interested in how people use beauty products to change their appearance and identities. To make DeLuxe, she used old magazine advertisements for products such as wigs, stockings, skin whitener, and hair straightening items. These ads promised transformations based on what was considered beautiful at the time—straight hair and light-colored skin. She found the ads in African-American magazines from the 1930s through the 1970s such as Ebony, Our World, Black Stars, and Sepia.

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Ellen Gallagher, DeLuxe, 2004–05 (detail)

At first, Gallagher was interested in the wig advertisements because the images were arranged in a neat grid. Later, she realized that she also really liked the old-fashioned language used to describe the products. For example, different wigs could transform a person into a “cutie” or “curly gypsy.”