The Beauty Spot

Stephanie Rothenberg (United States)

The Beauty Spot is a three-minute animated personal essay made in response to a call by FEMeeting, an association for women in art, science, and technology, to “make lemonade from lemons” by thinking about the pandemic in productive ways. The call was posted in March 2020 during the initial lockdowns in the United States as anxiety peaked in a country with little experience in containing viral spread and a government that actively undermined public health. To make Americans take the situation seriously, an invisible virus had to be visible.

In retrospect, The Beauty Spot is a tribute to Alissa Eckert at the medical illustrator for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) who visualized the SARS-CoV-2 as a “spiky blob that has been burned into the retina of all of us.” In STEM fields dominated by men, this “beauty spot” designed by a woman in the arts and sciences refocuses our attention on the need for creative responses to crises.

“Et voilà,” as the voiceover announces: “a detailed solo closeup, a manufactured representation of arbitrary aesthetics, visualizing what cannot be seen by the human eye.” The video asks us to consider what it means to model nature after culture as culture becomes natural, thus posing the questions about how our cultural practices are destroying the planet.

Stephanie Rothenberg.

 Stephanie Rothenberg’s interdisciplinary art draws from digital culture, science and economics to explore relationships between human designed systems and biological ecosystems. She has exhibited internationally. Her work is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art and has been widely reviewed including Artforum, Artnet, The Brooklyn Rail, and Hyperallergic. She is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Art at SUNY Buffalo where she co-directs the Platform Social Design Lab, an interdisciplinary design studio collaborating with local social justice organizations.