Basile Gallery

Imagine Me Beyond What You See

November 3, 2021 – January 27, 2022

View the virtual tour

In the United States of America, people of all social and ethics groups and particularly women, are inundated by images of what constitutes beauty, including size and weight and the perception of these on wealth, worth, education, and health (Taylor, 2018). As a result, perpetuated societal rules for attaining the ideal body contribute to misinformation about weight-related illness and death (Campos, 2004). Rules include food restriction and harmful exercise patterns coupled with phrases that vilify food and our relationship to it (e.g., cheat days, indulgences, food rewards, being bad) when eating foods that are deemed "unhealthy" by cultural standards (Tovar, 2018). Supporting the implicit and explicit messages that Americans should feel shame about their bodies and it is only through achieving physical change through unhealthy measures, such as food restriction and extreme physical activity, that they can shed that shame and feel worth by being deemed attractive by society.

Store mannequins market clothes by showing how flattering they are when worn by someone with the ideal body further contributing to body image distortion. An individual might be able to limit consumption of online images geared towards diet plans, exercise programs, and clothing to "fix" whatever part of the body is problematic. However, a store that sells clothing for all sizes typically places the notably fewer clothing options for larger bodies along with its few plus-sized mannequins (usually a size 8) towards the back of the store in relation to the front entrance (Dixon, 2019). By doing this, retailers communicate to 80% of the population who do not have the ideal body that their bodies are not meant to be seen or acknowledged (Campos, 2004).

When Audre Lorde, American writer, poet, feminist, and civil rights activist (1984) stated, "I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood," she captured the experience, both empowering and fear of speaking about your experiences (p. 40). For some, it is art making, not spoken word, that supports the ability to recount their individual and collective experiences as they work toward healing.

The International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (iaedp™; 2019) Imagine Me Beyond What You See art competition "was designed to promote a healthy awareness and acceptance of body images" and encouraged art therapists to collaborate with individuals with eating disorders to reimagine the body (para. 1). It provided a platform to share stories of the individual and collective experience of the body, eating disorders, and journeys towards recovery. This forum fostered an opportunity to use a mannequin as the foundation of the art making to challenge cultural and societal notions of the ideal body, while also increasing awareness and educating others on eating disorders.

The guidelines for the art competition allowed individual and group submissions from art therapists working with individuals with eating disorders. The submitted mannequins and their corresponding written descriptions were compiled and a voting link was released to the public. This gave the participants an opportunity to share the survey link through email and social media, thereby allowing them to build awareness of eating disorders through their personal, professional, and social connections. The voting link allowed the general public to select their favorite mannequin and to learn more about eating disorders on the main iaedp™ webpage. Social media enabled participants’ communities to grow through reposting, retweeting, or forwarded email links, thus exposing the competition, research, and treatment trends to larger and potentially more diverse groups of people. Additionally, attendees of the iaedp™ annual symposium were permitted to vote and the winners of the contest were announced at a special recognition event.

This exhibition provides a sampling of the mannequins that were submitted from 2017-2018. These posters reflect the wide interpretation of the Imagine Me Beyond What You See contest and provide insight into the challenges and complexity of eating disorders.

—Eileen Misluk, assistant professor of art therapy

References

Campos, P. (2004). The obesity myth: Why America's obsession with weight is hazardous to your health. Gotham.

Dixon, E. (2019, June 6). Nike introduces plus-size mannequins to London store. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/style/article/london-nike-mannequins-scli-intl/index.html

The International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals Foundation. (2019). Imagine me. http://www.iaedp.com/imagine-me/

Lorde, A. (1984). Sister outsider: Essays and speeches by Audre Lorde. The Crossing Press.

Misluk-Gervase, E. (2020). The role of art therapy in eating disorder advocacy. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association.https://doi.org/10.1080/07421656.2020.1823783

Taylor, S. R. (2018). The body is not an apology: The power of radical self-love. Berrett-Koehler.

Tovar, V. (2018). You have the right to remain fat. Feminist Press.

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