Cindy Chen Embraces The Unconventional Through High-Fashion Makeup

“I want to enhance their features and make them realize they are beautiful in a way they wouldn’t normally expect.”

Sometimes she goes to bed with a new makeup look already planned out for the day ahead. Cindy Chen, A&S ’16, has been interested in artwork since a very young age. In high school, Chen participated in art exhibitions before discovering another creative outlet through the form of conceptual art and experimental makeup. Following the techniques from YouTube tutorial and DIY videos, Chen is a self-taught aspiring makeup artist who utilizes both her skills in photography and Adobe Photoshop to showcase alternative forms of makeup artistry.

Since arriving at Boston College, Chen has launched her own online blog, Opal Catharsis, in order to feature both her own work and the work of underground artists. Capturing both costume-y and high fashion art, Chen derives inspiration from emotion in order to create more powerful images. Catering to experimental and avant-garde makeup, Chen describes her own aesthetic as strange and one you wouldn’t expect to find beautiful.

“I look at the face as a canvas,” Chen said. “Normal makeup tends to be mainstream. When people typically use makeup, they use it as a mask. I want to enhance their features and make them realize they are beautiful in a way they wouldn’t normally expect.”

Three-dimensional art, levitation photography, and costume design are all fields that Chen eventually wishes to pursue in her work. For inspiration, Chen prefers to forgo structure or planning and chooses to go off of spontaneity. Social media, Instagram, and print media have all influenced Chen in her designs. For Opal’s Catharsis, Chen examines high-fashion portfolios and selects artists that she feels bring a unique perspective to artistic expression.

In addition to her blog, Chen is working on launching her own magazine, titled Artists Unknown. The aim is to bring underground and unknown artists to the forefront and to have their work appreciated. In conjunction with photographer Dan McCarthy, a student from Northeastern University, Chen incorporates modes of unconventional photography, body art, and conceptual design.

Two years ago, Chen was exploring the possibility of having her work showcased in magazines and other publications. After submitting her portfolio, Chen believes her work was ultimately turned away because it did not cater to typical standards of beauty. Chen then decided to launch her own magazine as a creative outlet for experimental artists. She hopes that by drawing a large online presence, people will be interested in reading print copies of her publication.

“People don’t usually respond well to change or new-age art,” Chen said. “My goal with the magazine is to curate new types of artists to be seen by the public.”

While Chen has always wanted to be part of the fashion industry and hopes to enhance fashion collections with makeup design, she remains wary of the possibility of starting her own makeup line in the future. The creative process, above all else, is most important to her.

“I’m not the type of person that would monetize off of this because it takes away from the source of motivation,” Chen said. “I’ve always loved art and my work goes back to my roots. I want to keep the vision alive and it [creating my own line] goes against that.”

While her work has been markedly well-received and popular at BC, Chen derives the most inspiration from her makeup work with models and networking with other like-minded artists. Her blog has served as a digital platform for forming connections with international artists. Chen describes that in helping underground artists gain more exposure, she has also encountered people who simply do not desire a large following and create art for art’s sake.

“It is understandable that due to the nature of my aesthetic, my models get a bit wary of the outcome of the shoot as I do their makeup in production, because at times it is borderline alien,” Chen said. “I think some of my best works have come out of allowing improvisation to take its course and I diverted so much from my initial sketches that I created a completely different look.”

Ultimately, the goal for Chen is to bring acknowledgement to these undiscovered artists and to showcase unconventional beauty in everyday people.

“We stare at the mirror every day, blind to the details in our faces that make us unique and wonderful,” Chen said. “Words can’t always show us that these little things exist. We have to discover it ourselves.”

Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Editor

Gallery by Cindy Chen, Juha Turalba, Arlo Perez, Andrew More, Dan McCarthy, and John Wiley

About Summer Lin 50 Articles
Summer Lin was the 2015 Assistant Arts and Review Editor for The Heights and a lover of all things of film, music, and fashion. You can follow her on Twitter @SummerrLin.