21 December 2011

Allyson Mitchell's fat feminist art and me

I won't lie, xmas makes me feel mentally ill and if I smoked crack I would be huffing on a big fat pipe of it right now. In past years I've published a Hits and Shits list on this blog in an attempt to create some kind of temporal narrative about fat. This year I've given up.

Instead I'm going to mark the end of the year by sharing a drawing that one of my favourite artists, Allyson Mitchell, has produced. Allyson is one of the founders of the now defunct fat activist group Pretty, Porky and Pissed Off, who reclaimed the streets of Toronto a while back. She's also an assistant Professor in the School of Women's Studies at York University. Oh yeah, and she co-owns the Feminist Art Gallery (FAG) and is an accomplished artist in her own right. I've added that last but actually it should go first.

So, picture the scene, I'm sitting at my computer, contemplating xmas-related suicide, and up pops an email from Allyson. She's attached a drawing that features me. The email says that I am in the middle and the image comes from a photo shoot I did for FaT GiRL in 1996. It goes on to say that the other figures are also based on women in FaT GiRL and that I was the inspiration for the piece.

The drawing is part of a project started by Ulrike Müller, who I don't know and have never met, that Allyson has worked on. Allyson wrote in her email: "Ulrike took the titles of images that are archived in the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn. Artists were asked to draw an image that represents the title in some way without seeing the actual image. I randomly got the title 'A Group of Naked Women...Very Curvy' – what luck!!!!"

It's now a few days later and I'm still trying to work it out. I feel very happy and proud that something I did a long time ago can be part of something really excellent today, it makes me reflect on the importance not just of developing fat queer cultural production, but also the value of using our bodies within the things we make. I love Allyson's art and am absolutely delighted to feature in it. Thinking about this drawing makes me feel as though I'm swirling around in a whirlpool of beautiful things that mean a great deal to me: queer archives and especially the Lesbian Herstory Archives, fat dykes, activism, Allyson's art, FaT GiRL, wooooo! The picture reminds me of an incredible time in my life when I kind of bloomed into my queer-fat self after a long time of feeling frozen. Playing naked on a Californian beach exemplifies that period so well. It's also amazing to see my nudey fat body there, I'm feeling a lot of self-love about that, and that's a precious feeling for people like me. Not only that, but it's amongst the other bodies too; I know that I couldn't have inhabited that emotional-embodied-social-political space without the others. It feels really fantastic to see myself acknowledged as part of this amazing fat feminist movement, in ways that I relate to, by someone who knows and who is also implicated in it herself. I love the luck and randomness of how the image came about. It gives me chills of happiness to think about other people seeing this work as it becomes circulated in new spaces that Ulrike is developing, and it becoming part of other people's consciousness.

Woah, head explodes.

Image courtesy of Allyson Mitchell

11 comments:

Alexie said...

Gorgeous!

Petunia said...

Squee! This has brought a smile to my face on a grim-feeling day.

miss kitty galore said...

Amazing work. Thanks for this collaboration! xo

Jacqui Gingras said...

Love love love this image, Charlotte. The little ripples of the waves tell me two things - water is fun to play in, especially naked and when we do something, we never know how it will be taken up in the years to come.

As for xmas - we are in it together, my fabulous friend.

j

Charlotte Cooper said...

Thanks folks!

K x said...

Thanks for the share and I love that image. Its 1.45am here and I'm cutting up fruit and cold pizza to take to an optional dress beach on the coast tomorrow. I know I'll get stares, gasps and finger pointing as I take myself into the water but the indescribable joy of swimming nude overtakes any angst.

On a very different note, I wondered if there was some kind of register of fat bigots or offensive articles. My local (supposedly left wing) newspaper, The Age (Melbourne, Australia), has an almost weekly fat bashing article under the headings of lifestyle, health, beauty. Whilst the fat-positive comments are slowly increasing, the tacky tabloid mentality of the writers needs to be reigned in. I guess I'm asking if there is a team somewhere that tackles/comments on these articles en masse as ultimately its the power of numbers that creates change.

K x said...

Sorry - forgot to leave a link to the latest article. This one features a designer who claims that "lycra is a privelege" (gag). Most of the offending articles are editorials by staff writers.

http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/fashion/lycra-is-a-privilege-20111222-1p6cy.html

Charlotte Cooper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlotte Cooper said...

If there are a group of people who get together to protest media stories about fat, I don't know of them. Why not start one yourself?

K x said...

I'll give it a try - I'm just concerned that I'm going to blow a gasket at the sheer volume of fat bigotry in the media.

Charlotte Cooper said...

Well, maybe just do what you can.