While the Internet is revolutionizing the relationships that marginalized people have with their bodies, one young artist strives to bring this radical self-realization to the art world. Fat IRL: a fat art show is a refreshing art showcase of fat bodies that are left out of mainstream art shows and celebrations of beauty.
In an interview with Paper, organizer Annie Rose excitedly shares details as to the show’s content.”I’ve noticed that even in the art world, which is supposedly really progressive, the people who get the most attention are traditionally beautiful. It’s very dictated by beauty politics and people who are thin, white and cisgender. And there’s also this trend now with feminist art that hails the selfie as a kind of tool of empowerment, a reclamation—which is really cool, and I really like some of the art that’s being produced around that—but I also think that visibility is a double-edged sword for most other people who don’t fit the mainstream standard of beauty.”
Rose continues: “As a fat sex worker, I’ve seen the difference between the way I’ve been treated and the way that my thin counterparts are treated, and how there’s much more scrutiny on my body. But, of course, I’m a white cisgender woman, so if I was a woman of color or a trans woman and I was fat, there would be even more scrutiny. So I was kind of interested in uplifting artists who don’t get as much mainstream attention. Fat people are kind of one of the only groups of people—along with sex workers, maybe—that it’s still okay to openly make fun of. So I wanted to showcase some of the art that some of these fat people are doing, and [see] the difference between that art and the more kinda mainstream, identity-based art that’s being covered.”
The NYC artist made it a point to be intersectional in the creation of the display, covering how fatness is experienced differently through various prisms of race, class and cisnormativity. “I couldn’t have this show and have it just be fat white women. I need it to be fat people of all genders [so that we can come together and] beyond self-examination and justification. I think mostly there is a responsibility to address how their work can be more well-received because of what they look like… I see a lot of artists making general statements about women, and I can’t really relate to that.”
Another element of the show is destigmatizing the word fat. “Fat is very much still like a dirty word. If I say, oh I’m fat—people will still say, ‘oh you’re curvy,’ and I’m like no, I’m fat. Just because you find me attractive, doesn’t mean I’m not fat. It’s uncomfortable for you that you find a fat person attractive so it’s not a good word, you know?” She’s particularly adamant about decolonizing the fat phobic elements of desire by embracing the term that’s made so many people uncomfortable. “It’s just an adjective, and it’s got so many negative connotations. But also fat is this interesting identity where it’s something that can fluctuate, like maybe you weren’t fat, and now you are, or maybe you were and now you’re not.”
While scouring for artists, Rose discovered that the most open artists to bringing element of fatness into their work were sex workers and Internet celebrities. “I found that the people who were the most open about being fat were other sex workers, because when you’re in the sex industry, your appearance dictates your livelihood, so people are very realistic about what they look like. So, there are other sex workers in the show and Internet personalities.”
The connection between fat bodies and sex work brings together two marginalized identities into one explosively radical show. Social media mavens, Pervy Panda, La’Shaunae Steward and Shoog McDaniel also played a role in the development of the exhibit’s conception.
The art will be on display at 630 Flushing Avenue, 5th floor, in Brooklyn, from Oct. 15 to Nov. 5.