by Randy Laist, Professor of English, University of Bridgeport
Makeup. Poetry. Social media.
Most people probably don’t think of these three things as being closely related, but for elexified, makeup, poetry, and social media merge together as interconnected strategies for examining questions of identity, social roles, and self-expression.
elexified is the audacious, self-performative persona adopted by University of Bridgeport undergraduate and prolific multimedia artist Lex Greene. Greene has been exploring this elexified persona for almost 10 years. As a young dancer, Greene became adept at applying stage makeup in a way that exaggerated facial features and transformed the identity of the wearer.
Greene’s experimentation with the transformative potential of makeup has since grown into a profound and restless quest to explore the shifting relationship between how we present ourselves to one another (whether through makeup, social media, or some combination of both) and who we really are as human beings.
Greene explains, “For a large portion of the last 10 years, I have used various social media outlets — mostly Instagram — to use elexified as a persona to navigate gender identity and sexuality as a queer Black person. I have always felt like a genderless being — and therefore the energy of elexified — as opposed to an overtly feminine figure or artist. My makeup artistry has both given me the freedom and forced me to confront the automatic, gendered assumptions people have been societally conditioned to associate with a person, or perceived ‘woman,’ wearing makeup.”
In Greene’s Instagram posts, Greene’s face becomes a living canvas where colors blend with one another and with Greene’s own facial features to create striking images. Greene explains that these striking images are meant to “strike” very specifically at our preconceptions about race, gender, sexuality, and identity itself. Greene has also been exploring these same themes in poems. Drafts of these poems also appear on the “elexified” Instagram page, as if they are also snapshots of elexified’s identity, further challenging our expectations about the nature and scope of human identity.
Greene’s fascination with makeup artistry is an extension of a lifelong fascination with color. As a child, Greene remembers drawing family “pictograms” in which red, blue, and pink came to represent a trinity of father, mother, and child. This private childhood obsession has since grown into an artistic quest to inquire into the nature of color itself as a phenomenon that encompasses scientific, psychological, cultural, and political implications.
Greene hopes to consolidate these ideas in a thesis project devoted to investigating the elemental, ephemeral, and subjective qualities of color. Greene’s talents as a poet converge with a commitment to cultural and political activism in Greene’s ambition to use the elexified persona as a way of “embodying art on the cellular level” and to become a “human synthesizer.”
Greene states, “I plan to synthesize all the transcultural, transhistorical instances where we can all explore the chemistry of color with limitless confines and with limitless commentary and connections to peoples, systems, societies, artforms, functions, media — just a limitless lens on color.”
Randy Laist is a professor of English at Goodwin University and University of Bridgeport. He is the author of several books, including Cinema of Simulation: Hyperreal Hollywood in the Long 1990s and The Twin Towers in Film: A Cinematic History of the World Trade Center. He has also edited collections of essays in the fields of popular culture, literary criticism, and pedagogy. He lives in New Haven with his lovely wife Ann, assorted children, and Sigmund the cat.