My artwork is an honest exploration of body image and what it means to have a positive awareness of self. My paintings depict women with bodies that do not conform to societal expectations of thinness, yet, in an act of exposure and defiance they reject the notion of body insecurity and challenge normative beauty standards. I use vivid colors, symbolism, and overt femininity in order to celebrate all women as having authentic inward and outward beauty. Using traditional oil painting materials and techniques allows me to reference a time in art when a Rubenesque figure was celebrated, as well as juxtapose the contemporary trend of promoting fat positivity with a traditional medium.
Concepts of ideal body image and fat shaming have perpetuated in our culture for decades, and this constrained idea of beauty and perfection has had an effect on me my entire life. Growing up overweight, I struggled with low self-esteem and a damaged sense of self-worth until very recently. In taking on this subject matter, I have had to embrace my insecurities and expose my vulnerabilities to others, and through this process, I have been learning to accept and love my own body. I reject the notion that fat is a flaw and that women are beautiful despite this flaw. Through my paintings I want to show that fat is not a weakness or imperfection, it is rather a feature that can make a woman even more beautiful. In a society that values thinness as a marker for beauty, I am offering a counterargument: There is beauty in curves, in stretchmarks, in wrinkles, in the “flaw.” There is beauty in the aspects of our bodies that make us unique, that make us who we are. I want my paintings to empower women to see their bodies, especially the aspects they are most insecure about, as beautiful, as wonderful, and as something to be celebrated.
‘WEIGHTLESS’ EXHIBITION STATEMENT
“You’re Fat!” These words were hurled at me for the first time when I was nine years old. Could the boy sitting across from me at church possibly have known the weight those words would have on me? Could the countless other people who called me “fat” when I was growing up ever have known the way these words would weigh me down? Before I was even overweight, the word “fat” became a part of my identity. This became a self-fulfilling prophecy as I created the world for myself that I thought I deserved. I began to hate my body and myself, to feel shame and embarrassment. For decades, I tore myself down, dabbled with unhealthy behaviors in bouts of desperation, and repeated cycles of extreme weight loss followed by extreme weight gain.
By the end of 2015, I was over three years out of graduate school (USC) and I was struggling to make work that was meaningful. I knew that I was not honestly tackling the real issues I struggled with, and I decided then that, despite my fears, I would start making work about body image. My first painting in this series, “New Beginnings,” became the work that pulled me from this artistic slump and gave me an unyielding passion for my work. It also began to heal my perception of self, teaching me as I painted that the women I depicted ARE beautiful. Furthermore, they are not beautiful despite their weight, but rather their weight is part of what makes them beautiful.
As I worked on this series, I began to release the negative self-identity of “fat” and embrace, instead, identities of “beautiful,” “strong,” and “fearless.” More and more, I released the shame and self-hate that was weighing me down more than any extra lbs ever had. Through creating this series and sharing its development on social media, I found community and support. I found women who are strong and confident in their skin, women who are not weighed down by their bodies but who instead are using their weight as a platform to incite change and give hope to others. I know now that women are fat OR skinny, young OR old, scarred OR smooth... AND we are beautiful, AND we are strong, AND we are powerful, AND we are fearless. We are WEIGHTLESS.