girlacne is the enigmatic 16-year-old followed by FKA twigs and Brooke Candy – we talk aesthetic, art and changing perceptions through lipstick
girlacne has only been doing makeup for a year (and “big and dramatic” makeup for just a few months), but you would never be able to tell from looking at them. Their Instagram is crawling in high-concept lqqks that would look equally fitting on a runway in hell or one of Ladyfag’s festivities: a Rorschach butterfly for a mouth, Escher-esque bone structure beneath six pack-rings worn as a mask, blood-red skin with a crucifixion on the lips. Although their Instagram captions reference butoh dancers, apocalyptic Bible verses, and Louis Vuitton gimp masks alike, they prefer to keep their artistic influences and creative process an enigma. “With a lot of art, you can tell the thoughts someone’s had and what inspired them and also how they made the art,” they say. “I prefer art that doesn’t show any of that. I think it’s more fun.”
Girlacne’s real name is Caleb Morris, and at just 16, they have amassed over 13,000 followers including FKA twigs, Brooke Candy, and Kat von D, who once drew their portrait. Armed with a style that’s equal parts Alexander McQueen and heretical alien drag, the Welsh teen is definitely someone to keep an eye on. We spoke to them about their unique aesthetic, Internet notoriety, and makeup as a political act.
How would you describe your art and aesthetic?
girlacne: I guess I like to keep a melancholy and slightly dirty aesthetic. I’m very inspired by any half-human creatures, mermaids, aliens, witches and that kind of stuff. Some of it could be labelled drag, but a lot of it is stuff I’m just wearing to go out with friends. Juxtaposition is very important in my art; even if I look completely pretty, I like to take a bad quality photo to give the prettiness a creepy aesthetic. I try my best to look effortless. I hate art with any obvious creative process; I like art that leaves you questioning how it came into being.
What made you want to start doing makeup as an artistic medium?
girlacne: When I first started, it was just part of how I looked. I just wore a bit of red eyeshadow and nothing else to make my eyes look like I was crying or infected, and it slowly became much more elaborate. I actually used to look completely normal but only received negativity from people, so I figured if I’m going to get treated like shit whatever I do, I might as well have fun.
You're incredibly talented and accomplished for someone who's only been doing makeup for a year--and the dramatic stuff for a few months. Are you self-taught?
girlacne: I’ve never been taught by anyone properly. I learnt how to do makeup with YouTube videos by goths and drag queens, which is probably why I never do natural makeup. Even before I started wearing makeup, I watched makeup tutorials for hours. My favourites were Miss Fame and a channel called Drac Makens. It looked like so much fun, so eventually I started doing it myself.
You have a rather large following on Instagram, and artists including Kat von D have done "fan art" or portraits of you. Were you surprised by the response you've received?
girlacne: I’ve received a surprising amount of portraits and love from people, but I don’t think it’s ever surprised me, because it was so gradual and I constantly compare myself to people who are much older and have a larger following than me. I think because I distance myself so much from the negativity I receive, I end up distancing myself from everything.
With such a steadily growing following, what's the next step you want to achieve with your art?
girlacne: I honestly don't have much of a plan. I didn’t even plan on getting anywhere with makeup until it just kind of happened anyway. I’m sure whatever happens will be surprising and beautiful.
Even thinking about what you're doing at the moment, what sort of impact do you want to make artistically?
girlacne: I’ve never really planned on making any impact, but now I see a small bit of impact, it sometimes makes me want to make more. I guess I can be a bit of an online troll — I like to make people who maybe don't think much, think more. It’s sad, but it sometimes feels like lipstick can be more thought-provoking than police brutality and war. I think my biggest goal is to make as many people as possible more open-minded and thoughtful through art.
In your most recent post you said "female muas [makeup artists] r so over-rated like we get it ur a girl" making fun of how people say the exact same things about male makeup artists. As a non-female makeup artist, do you consider your makeup art political or socially critical?
girlacne: Definitely, but all art for me is primarily just out of love for art and because I and other people find it beautiful. Anything socially critical is just something that comes along with it sometimes. I’m never deliberately thought-provoking when I’m making art, that’s just part of how I display it.