French artist



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French artist
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Date of Birth

May 30, 1947

Place of Birth

Saint-Étienne, France

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Have you ever seen the TV show Botched where people complain about all their plastic surgery gone wrong?

Well one look at ORLAN might shut all those whiny reality tv peeps up. ORLAN’s whole life is like one episode of Botched over and over again, but rather than bitching about a slightly crooked nose job, ORLAN boasts her augmented body as “Carnal Art”.

ORLAN has always been a bit kooky. At the age of 15, she ditched her former identity as Mireille Suzanne Francette Porte and became ORLAN (yes, all caps). Back then she dreamed of being an opera singer, but soon realized she didn't have the pipes necessary to make that one a reality.

Before she got into the whole plastic surgery thing for which she is now famous, she was a performance artist doing things like capturing her menstruation under a microscope. One day, when preparing to speak at a symposium on performance art, she had to be rushed to the hospital for an emergency surgery due to an ectopic pregnancy. She brought a video crew with her and insisted she stay conscious through the procedure. An interest in surgery and augmenting the human body was born.

Now best known for her plastic surgery series, The Reincarnation of Saint-Orlan, she intended to rewrite Western art history with her own body. She took the chin of Botticelli's Venus, the forehead of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the the lips of François Boucher’s Europa, and so on and so forth, and voila! ORLAN proved that too much of a good thing is very much a real problem.

We have all heard of Surrealism and Impressionism, but surely plenty have not heard of the Carnal Arts. Like all good artists before her, she created a manifesto to justify her mind-boggling actions and since has been on a mission to promote and validate the Carnal Arts. It may not be some CIA funded Abstract Expressionism, but it sure did catch the attention of the art world. How could it not? This woman was literally slicing up her body and calling it art. So you may be wondering what could be running through her head and how she can even have the audacity to call her questionable life choices art. According to her manifesto, “Carnal Art is self-portraiture in the classical sense, but realized through the possibility of technology.” She sees the body as a “modified ready-made” (Duchamp, look what you have done), and is ultimately interested in the process of plastic surgery, not the result.

ORLAN is trying to challenge what it means to be beautiful. As she explained, “If you were to describe me without anyone being able to see me, they would think I am a monster, that I am not f*ckable. But if they see me, that could perhaps change." To each their own, right? Side note, ORLAN does have a hubby. Plus, who knows, I am sure there are people out there who really dig the Cruella De Vil look. Either way, at the end of the day, ORLAN is just a feminist artist resisting the male gaze, while encouraging perhaps a different kind of gaze. I mean, how could you not stare at those implanted horns on her forehead?



  1. Beckett, Andy. “Suffering for her Art.” The Independent. April 13,1999. Accessed October 2, 2017.
  2. Jeffries, Stuart. “Orlan’s Art of Sex and Surgery.” The Guardian. July 1, 2009.Accessed October 3, 2017.
  3. ORLAN. “Manifesto of Carnal Art.” Orlan. Accessed October 3, 2017.
  4. “Orlan.” Creative Mapping. Accessed October 3, 2017.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Orlan

ORLAN (born Mireille Porte) is a French contemporary artist best known for her work with plastic surgery in the early to mid-1990s. ORLAN is known as a pioneer of carnal art, a form of self-portraiture that utilizes body modification to distort one's appearance. She adopted the pseudonym "ORLAN" in 1971, and capitalises each letter because, as ORLAN states, she has 'no desire to step back into rank.' She lives and works in Paris.

She practices painting, sculpture, photography and video, and produces plastic works, installations and performances. She also uses digital media, surgery, medicine, robotics, AI and biotechnologies. ORLAN says that her art is not body art, but rather 'carnal art,' which lacks the suffering aspect of body art.

ORLAN's performance artwork uses famous depictions of women by male artists, for example, Mona Lisa and Jean-Léon Gérôme's artwork depicting a woman with horns, to inform her surgery choices and performance art. By doing so, ORLAN is replicating ideal features of women depicted in famous artwork throughout time, on her own body and face. ORLAN says that she has been troubled by the nude depictions of women in artwork throughout history, who were there only to satisfy the male gaze, which is why she is attempting to change this in a powerful and revelatory way, by challenging the conventions women are forced to conform to.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Orlan.