15 April 2009

Conference Report: Fat Studies at the PCA - 5

Fat Studies V: Examining Visual Representations of Fatness
Chair: Lesleigh Owen, Chaffey College

Unfortunately Katariina Kyrölä, University of Turku, was unable to attend to present her paper: Expanding Laughter? Shame(lessness) and Body Image Incongruity in Fat Actress.

George Dinhaupt
George Dinhaupt, California State University


Georgie presented a series of his autobiographical photographic self-portraits, images that seek to challenge concepts of beauty and the gaze with humour. He talked about how he codes himself in the images in order to be read by others, about how he uses and subverts gay iconography. In one series of images, Discarded, named for Los Angeles where many things are discarded, he remarked that his body is unable to fit against the narrow backdrop. Georgie talked about light and his use of colour, using whatever is to hand and saying "if it comes out blurry, I don't mind."

The Voluptuous Art of Beryl Cook
Zeynep Atayurt, scholar, activist


Beryl Cook's larger than life figures advanced fat acceptance in art, but Cook herself was maligned by the art establishment in the UK, according to Zeynep. Cook's figures have been described as caricature, as undermining fat people, or parodying them, but Zeynep argues that they present "a liberating view of embodiment" where subjects are carefree, pleasure-seeking, delighted and normalised.

Mind/Body Duality and the Ubiquitous Fat Butt Shot
Bernadette Bosky, Olympiad Academia


Bernadette talked about the symbolism of belly and butt shots of anonymous fat people in the popular media. She discussed the dehumanising nature of these photographs, and showed an example of an image in which the subject's face was clearly seen and yet the image remained one of anonymous fat hatred. Bernadette compared these images to those produced by fat activists, first in Women en Large, and more recently in The Adipositivity Project. She argued that personality and history can be shown in an image of a fat person even when their face is left out of the shot, as in one portrait, and said of other activist-produced images that they were "too real to be anybody's stereotype."

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