Fat. There, I said it.
I was raised to believe that when this word was used, it was an insult. Something that people never wanted to be because skinny was the epitome of beauty, as dictated by society. While growing up in Vicksburg, MS, I watched my mom sell weight loss pills and down crash-diet liquids. I went on diet kicks with my grandfather and prayed next to my friends for thigh gaps. Anything to not be fat. Still to this day, people are afraid to say fat for the fear of insulting or being insulted.
Earlier in my career, I focused on mental and emotional issues, mostly drawn from my personal experiences, because I believed that they were more powerful than my physical appearance. To assimilate an experience, I used found objects, sound, and various forms of video and projection to immerse the viewer into a moment in time. By projecting the viewer into the scenarios, they were forced to put themselves into the narrative and reflect on how they were affected. I strayed from using my physical aspects out of embarrassment, but after visiting New York City and seeing work from fellow contemporary artists using their bodies in their work, I was inspired to make work about my body- my vessel.
To achieve this, I took reference photographs and videos of bodies, including my own, and began thinking of abstracted forms with folds, bulges, and other large shapes. I started noticing juxtaposed qualities in each subject I photographed: dark vs light, long vs short, feminine vs masculine, skinny vs fat. These qualities can be found in various places within the same body and are not isolated to existing on separate beings. I found similar qualities between the human body and various materials, such as clay and foam. The choice to replicate human aspects in clay and foam can be found within the pores of these fleshy, plush, and malleable materials. These forms are often anthropomorphized, connecting the viewer to a more familiar being that they can relate to: human beings. Through texture, colors, and other variants, I examine the line between attraction and repulsion.
My current series focuses on the act of fitting. This is an act we think about on a daily basis. “Do I fit into these pants?” “Can I fit in that seat?” “Do I fit with these people?” As I wrap sinew around the soft, plush foam to conform it to a predetermined barrier, I think of body-shaping garments people have used for centuries to fit into an ideal standard. These items include, but are far from limited to: corsets, chest binders, spanx, and waist cinchers. When used incorrectly, these shapewears have been proven to be detrimental. Extreme compression can cut oxygen off from the lungs, ribs can be broken, and the need of external assistance in the removal of the material. This determination to fit into a mold at any cost is a concept that has always intrigued me. These pieces are an exploration into what happens when the subject is denied the opportunity to fit because of set parameters. What beauty can be found in the folds and wrinkles of pieces of foam that are left out? What lies in the cracks of clay left unfired? How do I fit?