It took the scenic view of a beach in Hawaii to provoke me to action with my artwork. It wasn’t the beauty of the sand, sea and sky. Not this time. It was 30 years ago…
I was sitting on a hillside in the shade to protect my fair skin, a tablet on my knees, sketching families enjoying the open air. I noticed a woman enter the scene like walking skin and bones. She carefully set up her space with her beach towel. I could not avert my eyes, capturing poses quickly as if she was a model in a live drawing session. I was riveted!
Afterward… holiday over, I did my homework. I knew what I’d witnessed did not seem healthy. It had been an intense experience for me. I immersed myself to learn all I could. Back then the research was just beginning to come out regarding eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. I learned about body image and how difficult it is to escape the social influences that teach us to look in the mirror with critical eyes. I acquired an understanding of how control issues can intertwine with eating disorders and mental illness. And sadly, I became aware of the deadly consequences in many cases.
What resulted from my immersion in this fact-finding exercise was a small body of artwork from my studio – an installation* displayed in an exhibit, which included an Altar piece, drawings of The Anorexic Sunbather and my 20-page illustrated booklet entitled Liking Your Own Shape.
It was a long time ago, but I still remember that at the opening reception various women approached me about the subject of eating disorders. Several quietly wrote notes in my comment book sharing their feelings. I specifically remember one woman, a friend of a mother who’s daughter suffered from anorexia; her sad eyes met mine after reading through my booklet, which was displayed on a music stand. Those are the kind of connections you don’t forget.
My Altar piece, was destroyed by water damage in storage some years ago, but the drawings survived. I came across a yellowed copy of the booklet in my files recently. Paging through I mused at the illustrations that flowed out of my psyche with such force. And I realized this subject is still relevant. I decided to have copies printed to bring it back to the present and into the future. It is available in my shop in three sizes.
* I’ve learned the Gallery is no longer exists at 1633 N. Damen Avenue in Chicago. But during the summer of 1991 it was Gallery 1633 Show 8: Artists: Aimee Chappell, Barbara Grant, Joseph Rodeder, Robin Bresemann, Micheal Hopkins, Charley Whittle, Wendle Yudis, Paul Lorenx Gallery Artists: Bill Boyce, Montana, Leslie Lenz, Kirk Smith