May 6, 2008

Art and Visual Beauty

Art is commonly associated with beauty. In fact, the two words are commonly used as synonyms (a.k.a. "that beautiful sunset is a work of art!"). Many artists over the centuries (and I am referring here, most specifically, to Western artists) have tried to capture this thing, this essence we call beauty.

The topic becomes interesting, however, when we bring in the issue of beauty with regards to the body and the contemporary "ideal" we are all supposed to strive for (a.k.a. tall, thin, blonde, white). It is a given in our society that Barbie is the most beautiful of the beauties. But how have the artists, the "experts" on beauty, those with the rare gift of seeing beauty's true essence, interpreted contemporary beauty?

An interesting example is Fernando Botero, a contemporary painter who has maintained that art's purpose is to bring beauty into the world. His paintings depict large, volumptuous figures. His scenes are billowing and sensuous, colorful and widely appealing.

To Botero, beauty is about form, curves, and volume. The women he paints have wide thighs, ample bosoms, and round rears. However, Botero's isn't a statement about accepting fat as beautiful. He is not an activist demanding equal beauty rights for all. The figures he paints simply depict the beauty he sees in the world. They are in proportion, gloriously feminine, and pleasing to the eye. He has even said that the women in his paintings are not "fat." Many would of course disagree. But, after viewing his work, it is hard not to fall in love with the characters he paints.

Another contemporary artist worth noting here is Laurie Toby Edison. Her book Women en Large offers photographs of large women in a relaxed environment. She approaches the subject with great sensitivity and the women are truly brimming with beauty.

And finally, I will leave you now with a fitting quote from Botero:

"I grew up with the idea that art is beauty. All my life I've been trying to produce art that is beautiful to discover all the elements that go to make up visual perfection. When you come from my background you can’t be spoilt by beauty, because you've never really seen it. If you're born in Paris, say, you can see art everywhere, so by the time you come to create art yourself you’re spoilt – you're tired of beauty as such and want to do something else. With me it was quite different. I wasn't tired of beauty; I was hungering for it."

Cyles of Self-Destruction

I found this image in the fatosphere (thank you!), and I not only found it adorable (don't you just want to bite that rhino he's so cute?) but I found it completely relatable. Almost every woman I have ever met is that rhino. I was, still am in a way, that rhino.

We are told from a very early age to try to change ourselves. To make ourselves "better." That the goal in life is to not only be the most attractive mate we can possibly be, but to look like a specific kind of mate that "everyone" desires. So we become disgusted by what we see in the mirror, we devise grand plans to change ourselves for the better that includes monitoring every morsel of food that enters our mouths and berating ourselves when the number on the scale does not match our effort. We pin up "before" pictures on the fridge where we are looking our worst in an effort to discourage us from staying that hideous. Next to it, we pin up "after" pictures, usually magazine cutouts of movie stars, airbrushed and photoshopped to resemble CGI's and high end sex toys. We reward ourselves when we do good and go to sleep starving. We punish ourselves when we do bad and give into our bodies screaming for nourishment. We lose 10 pounds, celebrate, gain it back, and our self esteem sinks even lower. Our will power has failed it, our hatred towards our bodies grows, and we embark on our next attempt to become "normal" and worthy.

This image of the rhino, in my mind, is a perfect depiction of this all too common cycle of self-destruction. It somehow sums up the entire experience without a word. The unicorn is beautiful, yes. But so is the rhino.

May 4, 2008


Here I am, sitting at my computer, alone in my one bedroom apartment, trying to decide what to write for my very first post. I had the urge to write this blog as a way of expressing myself, my opinions and experiences and just random thoughts, as a way of reaching out to others and leave something of myself behind. Now that it's here, I'm not sure how to start.

I've been on a journey of self discovery for awhile now, a kind of daily conscious effort to be aware of myself and my life and my mood and my feelings and reactions to various life things. But it has intensified in the past 6 months or so, when I shed a toxic relationship and really began analyzing myself. It has been painful, intensely painful actually, but strangely relieving. I'm at a point of peace right now, and am completely alone for the first time in my life, which feels good. Really good.

I suppose I will begin my introducing myself and explaining a little what I want to do with this blog. I'm 27, a native Texan, a grad student studying art (photography) and education, and I will be graduating in a year to where I hope to teach high school students the power of art to heal and ignite a passion in life. I have recently come upon the fat acceptance movement and the HAES philosophy of eating, and it has honestly transformed my life and improved my self-esteem like nothing ever has. I am an avid feminist (not the man-hating kind, the kind that believes women should grab their power, stop giving it away, and contribute to the love of the world). I'm a lover, not a hater. I'm curious, self reflective, and well, like I said, on a journey of self-discovery. So, that is what this blog is about. The issues I will come across, the thoughts that go through my head that maybe relate to others lives as well. A way to connect and grow. I hope those of you who are reading this will grow a little along with me. Until next time...