When Leigh de Vries looks in the mirror, she sees a heavy tumor that causes the right side of her face to sag from her eyelid past her chin. But to other people, de Vries’ face isn’t deformed at all.
De Vries lives with Body Dysmporphic Disorder (BDD),or dysmorphophobia, a mental health condition marked by a perceived physical flaw that is either minor or nonexistent. According to the BDD Foundation, surveys estimate the disorder affects about 2 percent of the world population— reportedly Miley Cyrus and Robert Pattinson included— many of who suffer in silence. But de Vries, a Rotherham, England-based artist, decided to showcase her condition in a personal way: by using a makeup artist to install on her face the exact flaw she perceives.
Dazed reported that de Vries dons an artificial tumor that mimics the precise one she sees on herself in her project “Exposure: The Broken Reality Tunnel.” The installation, which exhibited in early October at a gallery in Rotherham, welcomes visitors into dark passages that lead to a black and white film in which de Vries stars.
De Vries, who was born with a lazy eye she had corrected in 2004, told the news website that BDD has caused her to develop an obsession with her appearance since early childhood.
“Eye contact is one of the most important ways humans interact,” she told Dazed. “Can you imagine going on a date or a job interview and not being able to look the other person in the eye? As I grew older, I became more and more isolated because of it.”
The artist described her project as a means to help her “get it out of my head” and “make it (my flaw) real.”
In the video, de Vries wears the prosthetic tumor, which took three months to make, as she walks the streets of Manchester and onlookers take notice.
“It was a way to capture my own journey of isolation but also make a social commentary on how people react to people with deformities,” she told Dazed.