Delia W. Oman, aka Laura Milkins
In 2006, UA MFA student Laura Milkins transformed herself as part of her project "Embracing Paris Hilton," which required platinum locks and lots of makeup. Now, for the Perfect Woman Project--her MFA thesis--Milkins is transforming herself once again. Last November, Milkins placed personal ads throughout the country asking people to submit "perfect woman" characteristics on her blog. In February, blog participants picked their favorite male entry for Milkins to date. I haven't met Milkins, but I did sit down to talk with Delia W. Oman--the result of Milkins' transformation. Check out Milkins' work at the 2008 Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition at the UA Museum of Art. You can meet Oman and Milkins' fellow MFA artists from 5 to 6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 17. For more information, go to the exhibition Web site.

OK, Laura ... I mean Delia, at the end of the month, you're going to date a man chosen by Laura's blog participants. His name is Alan. I understand he signed a contract and agreed that the dates will be broadcast live on the blog. Laura is paying for him to fly in from Los Angeles, right?

Laura is paying for everything, yes. She paid to have the gap filled on my front teeth. She paid to have my lips done. Alan's coming on the 28th, and we're going to go on dates (April) 29, 30 and May 1. And then ... (Laura) will come back.

How different are you from Laura?

We're both from the same region. Like, our families know each other. I'm from Grand Rapids, but she grew up in another small town. So were both Midwestern girls, but there are ways that we're different.

Project Perfect Woman is not just a feminist piece about looking at society. There's a technical piece, too, about reaching out through the Internet.

I know that Laura is interested in technology and how it informs culture. There's a guy who writes ... Raymond (Williams) ... he wrote about television in '50s and '60s, and how we think TV made everybody be a certain way, but that really, there was a need first, and then television happened because we needed it--because people were separated from their communities and their families because of industrialization. So technology is always filling a need ... the social need comes first. The Internet is really neat, because you can meet people; there are all sorts of social groups, and you can kind of be anybody.

How does Laura define her work?

Laura's work doesn't fall into any category. It's performance. It's visual media. It's interactive. It's kind of ... what's that other thing? There are a lot of interactive pieces. It doesn't happen unless others participate. Oh, yeah, it's called "conceptual." Those things have all been done, but she's putting them all together.

After you leave, and Laura comes back, what will she do next?

She (applied to the) Fulbright (Program), and I got a letter that she's on an alternate list. She won't know until May. But she wrote a project to walk from the southern tip of Mexico City to the north. She'd stand there, try to meet somebody and ask them to walk with her. She speaks Spanish really well ... she was going to walk with people and ask them to get her safely through their neighborhood, and while they walked, she'd ask them to tell their story, and she'd put it on her blog. ... (Her proposed project) deals with border issues, assumptions and our fear of our neighbors, so she is going to go trust Mexico.

What do think Laura is learning from her current project?

I really don't know. She'd probably tell you when I'm done. I know she did another piece when she became Paris Hilton, but she (didn't assume) Paris Hilton's personality; she just dressed like her. But that was weird, because people would expect something and not get it ... I know that even though she was dressed like a bimbo or movie star, people treated her very much the same. Dressing up like something does change how people perceive you, but body language is more important. I know that gave her a sense of freedom, that if you can do whatever you want to, then you're making a choice even when you don't think you're making a choice.

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