Hunger. Complicated and Personal

This piece brings me joy and disturbs me. It is deeply personal. It is my hunger. My very confusing hunger.

 Hunger, 2016. Hand embroidery on linen. Stretched on 6 x 6 inch canvas.

Hunger, 2016. Hand embroidery on linen. Stretched on 6 x 6 inch canvas.

First, the confusing and difficult part.

Although the image of my lips here is unintentionally sexualized, I don’t mean hungry in a sexual sense. Literally hungry. For food.

I imagine that for most financially comfortable people, hunger is not confusing. You feel hungry, you eat.

(I fully recognize the privilege embedded in this statement; billions of people do not have the means to nourish themselves. Even in my own neighborhood.)

 Process shots. From sketch to layers of thread.

Process shots. From sketch to layers of thread.

I’m not like most people when it comes to hunger and food. And for the last ten years I’ve been hungry. At times, desperately so.

I’ve been fighting myself, my body, to keep myself within the “healthy” BMI range for my height. If I’m honest, what I really mean is I’ve been fighting to keep myself at a weight that allows me to pass for “normal.” I’m ruthless about it and so I succeed. 

However, my body wants to be (and has been) fat. Very fat. Obese. And I’ve summoned surgeons and trainers and charlatans to help me fight against it for ten years. Although I haven’t looked obese in ten years, but I still struggle with obesity. 

 The gaps in my teeth. I love them.

The gaps in my teeth. I love them.

If you have never dealt with obesity, I know this makes no sense. But for me to weigh between 125-135 pounds, I have to be very hungry a lot of the time.  

You may not know this about obese people living their lives at a "healthy" weight. We are constantly fighting against our bodies like contortionists. It's not a matter of willpower. It's 10,000 battles against our disordered biology, within the toxic social pressures around women's weight.

This is not the great tragedy of my life. It is just exhausting. 

(Recently I’ve been reading and thinking about the fat acceptance movement.  It is a complex and diverse school of thought and I’m still working through my feelings about it, but anything that addresses the stigma of living in the world as an obese person is exciting to me.) 

 Home studio time.

Home studio time.

Second, the exciting part.

Hunger for life and experience and growth – these hungers are huge wells of strength in my life. This hunger drives me. This hungry mouth piece, along with two other recent ones, is leap with the skills and technique component of my artwork.

I have been pushing myself with translating faces and features to thread. 

 Thread Self Portrait 1. My mind cracked open with this piece.

Thread Self Portrait 1. My mind cracked open with this piece.

Since attending Lauren DiCioccio’s painting with thread workshop at Arrowmont Art School in May, I’ve been focusing on my technique. I’m learning so much about color and value.  To combine my personal preference for certain colors with a more disciplined approach to using hue to capture my own vision of a face. A feature.

 Detail from Hunger, 2016.

Detail from Hunger, 2016.

So this hungry mouth is deeply satisfying to me. And that brings me joy. Even in the midst of my confusion.