Exploring the Self

The ‘Exploring the Self’ project was a way of reconnecting with my body after trauma and disassociation with the most important relationship in my life – the relationship I had with my body.

I decided to dedicate a year of my university life to exploring and searching through my feelings in relation to my body. It was an emotional journey and the pieces that came from that period were raw and vulnerable. I grapple with difficult, tender emotions and come to terms with my body and the way it has changed and how the relationships with the people around me have changed because of it.

At first, I was uncomfortable with my fat body being displayed in my drawings and paintings. I explored these feelings and soon realised it was because a body like mine is so rarely portrayed in contemporary art, or if it was, it was carefully positioned into something sexual and pleasing to the male gaze. With this in mind, I played around with positions.

I did what felt uncomfortable; things that felt like they had not been portrayed before by fat women, things that felt good but I worried wouldn’t “look right” – I tried to not care what the camera would show. It felt good to not care about the outcome.

After all, my body was my body. Hating it would not change it one iota. Contrarily, if I showed it kindness, it might start showing me kindness back. 

For that year I studied fat liberation and disability politics, informing my views on how we should view changing bodies. These included ideas such as healthism, meaning the idea that we do not owe our health to anyone. This is especially important because healthism is often used as an excuse to blame the fat or disabled / chronically ill people for being the way they are and “not working harder” to be healthy. This is a dangerous, ableist idea because not everyone can achieve “health” in a meaningful way nor should they have to be thought of as worthy of respect. We are all intrinsically worthy of respect as human beings. I then began writing my dissertation in the summer before my final year at university on these matters.