He Asked, "Why Can't You Draw Normal People?"
You’re listening to Burnt Toast! This is the podcast about anti-fat bias, diet culture, parenting, and health. I am Virginia Sole Smith.
Today I am chatting with Lindsey Guile. Lindsey is an Associate Professor of Art at Dutchess Community College, and a body and fat liberation artist.
Lindsey uses large format drawing and ceramics to explore concepts of self image, body image and self worth through the lens of contemporary feminist theory. Her work has been exhibited at The Arnot Museum, The Dorsky Museum, The Birke Art Gallery, The Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery, Untitled Space Gallery, Women’s Work Gallery, The Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, and so many others. Lindsey currently lives in Poughkeepsie, and is someone I know locally through fat activism work here in the Hudson Valley. She is awesome!
Seeing Lindsey’s eight foot tall drawings of fat bodies in person was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had since I started writing and thinking about bodies in the way that I do. We are putting lots of images in the show notes, so definitely check them out and definitely follow her on Instagram. But know that these images are not doing her work justice. The actual size and scale of these drawings is something you have to experience in real life.
Lindsey is a total delight. I love talking to her about her process, about how she thinks about this work, and about the power of drawing bodies. So here’s Lindsey!
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Episode 105 Transcript
I am a self-described feminist, body neutral, fat liberationist, body liberationist, figurative artist. I know there are a lot of terms there, but there is a lot that I want to embrace. I work mainly in large-scale drawings that explore the idea of femininity from the feminine gaze. I have people who model for me, they can be clothed or nude. It’s totally up to them. I create an atmosphere that’s really based on consent. And I’ve been doing this regularly for about five years, although the series started about 10 years ago.
Bring us back to 10 years ago. What made you say “I not only want to draw bodies, I not only want to draw people, but I would like to draw them eight feet tall. I would like them to take up all of the space?”
How often do feminine folks get to just take up space unapologetically? That’s one thing that really stuck in my brain in terms of size, is that I wanted them to really just command a room—quietly though, because I do draw versus paint. And I think painting, while wonderful, is a lot louder. I think there can be such a power and sometimes subtlety to drawing.
But where it started was me white knuckling my way through my own recovery from diet culture and disordered eating which was just so difficult for me, especially when I was in my Master’s of Fine Arts program. I remember laying on the floor in my studio apartment having a panic attack, knowing that I could either continue to engage in diet culture or I could pass my classes. It took up so much of my brain power to do all that. And it got to the point where it just was not sustainable. I finally had to be like, I can’t do this anymore. I started following some folks online who were fat and I was like, look, these people are doing this. It’s okay, I can let this go.
I’ve always been a figurative artist. I love drawing the human figure. So I was like, “You know what, maybe I need to draw myself nude.” I had always been interested in being a nude model. But my body shape wasn’t what people drew when I was a student. So it seemed very cut off to me. One of my friends was like, “Hey, I think you need to draw yourself.” So I drew myself, collarbone to thigh. It actually hangs in my bedroom now, that drawing. And it was difficult, because I was dealing with my own body image issues—but then people were coming into my studio like, “Oh my gosh, like, look at the draping on the stomach from all the weight fluctuations. This is really beautiful. And this is such a great drawing. I love how you’re honoring that body.”
I didn’t tell people it was me.
Oh, that’s interest