Animals are born with the innate and brilliant ability of adaptation. The idea of change, however, intimidates most people; they thrive in fixed routines with familiar faces. I spent most of my childhood moving from state to state, city to city. By the age of 10, I had become more comfortable with the idea of change than most adults. I became accustomed to it, I suppose, picking up and moving on every few years. Only one thing remained consistent, my family. My brothers and sisters, and especially, my parents, even more so, my mother. When I was 9, my mother almost died. She had become very ill, very quickly. During her presumed final days, my father had taken my siblings and me to the hospital for a last visit. She looked down on us from her hospital bed, with tears in her eyes and she smiled, an emotion that I still can’t understand began to stir inside of me. It could have been pride that put the smile on her face despite confronting the reality of the human condition in the back of her mind: everyone dies. Proud of giving birth to five children and raising them by herself during my father’s recurrent absences or a mother’s love so pure and unconditional that not even the threat of her own death could strip her of her misplaced joy? I don’t think I’ll ever be certain, but it is the emotion I experienced on that day, over a decade ago, that empowers me to keep creating. Art is the physical manifestation of human emotion and that emotion, which in itself is still an enigma to me, will always remain as a source of my artistic perspective. This past semester especially, I’ve began to work through the notion of self-identity, through my mother. I’ve been told my whole life that I’m similar to her, her appearance, her generosity, her loving disposition. I suppose I’ve begun to look to myself instead of her as inspiration. I want to get to know myself better, to figure out what I want.
My recent delves into self-introspection and the art created because of it showed an interesting correlation. A lot of my work focused around me being a fat woman and realizing that that’s okay. Art History II: Renaissance to Modern covered a large timeline, but there was a certain artist who caught my attention. Throughout history, art has rarely featured fat people; During the Italian Baroque, an artist by the name Artemisia Gentilschi painted numerous, allegorical self-portraits. Gentilschi was a fat woman and correctly depicted herself as such instead of editing herself to appear thinner. It was rare to see women painting during this time period let alone fat women painting themselves. I think this that particular lecture struck a chord with me; I can create whatever I want, but more importantly I can create for myself and myself alone.
I want to continue to explore myself through my art work. As Kahlo said, “I paint self-portraits…because I am the person I know the best”. During our contemporary artist study in my Introduction to Fine Art Photography course, I chose to do my research on the photographer Jen Davis. Davis’ most famous photograph feature her, a fat woman, as the subject. Davis is pioneering fat art and paving a way for fat people to be both seen and heard much more often. Jen Davis uses her work to bring attention to the missing narrative of fat people in art through these self-portraits. Her almost unnerving photographs depict her, a larger person, as desirable, interesting, and captivating rather than unappealing or banal. Davis is one of the first professional artists I’ve seen that has captured fatness in such an authentic, honest way. The photographs I took, emulating Davis’, were a catalyst for the self-portraits I continued and will continue to create. Currently, the professional world of art is somewhat of a mystery to me. I’m double majoring with Studio Arts and Art History, partly because I couldn’t choose one and partly because I thought it would expand my options. I’ve considered working in a museum or gallery as a curator or dealer as well as freelancing. I’m not sure what I want to do as an artist yet and at 19 years old- I think that it’s okay to be unsure. As I continue to get older, I hope my acquired ability of adaptation aids me in furthering myself artistically and professionally.