Body Image: Art & Awareness

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S and only 1 in 10 get treatment. Eating disorders are caused by mental illness and primarily affect females aged 15-24; culture and negative body image escalate these disorders. Recently, I have been working with a group called Endangered Bodies, a global organization with a local group here in New York. Their mission is to increase diversity and acceptance across many categories, including body image. Working with them has made me more aware of cultural pressure associated with body image and this topic will be recurring on The Note Passer (I'm helping with their Pinterest and Tumblr accounts, so check them out along with the website to learn more). 

At the last meeting, New School student, Nuralia invited us to her art installation. It was called, Don't Be A Puppet / Love Yourself, and delved into the topic of eating disorders, specifically Bulimia. I attended and photographed the event which will also appear on the Endangered Bodies blog.

The first part of the installation had real online posts from people on eating disorder forums. Their words were shocking and their negative feelings about their bodies raw and on display for the world to see. The next part showed a dress form with markings for plastic surgery as a reminder of how pervasive it is in our culture.

Following this was a series of mirrors, each with their own purpose. The first represented what a person with a healthy body image would see and say while looking in the mirror. Sentiments like, "I am beautiful just the way I am!" were written across my reflection. The second mirror reflected a distorted body image, a skeleton representing the sickness that is Bulimia and negative thoughts scribbled across my reflection. Thoughts like, "I won't eat tomorrow!" attacked my image. The final mirror represented recovery and how a healthy person would approach body issues.   

After the mirrors, I was asked to write on a poster what I love about my body (My freckles and that I can bench press 50 pounds!). Nuralia will record and compile these celebratory comments at the end of her travels. I was also asked to commit to trying to love my body (I will!) and took an Endangered Bodies sticker; I got a lot of comments and smiles as I wore it home. The installation also included a series of strings set up to represent how eating disorders control lives and treat people like puppets.

The final piece was this video, called Onslaught: 


Nuralia has been researching this topic for some time throughout Germany, South Africa, New Zealand and England and has a passion for educating others about eating disorders. She plans to travel across the world with her show, raising awareness, tailoring the installation to each culture, and raising money for local causes. The installation at the New School raised money for Endangered Bodies NYC.

If you would like more information about the installation, contact Nuralia at nuraliasonjadaniela{at}gmail[dot]com

If you or someone you know struggle with an eating disorder, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association for help and support. 

If you would like to join the fight against the promotion of negative body image, consider Endangered Bodies or groups like it. Or start your own chapter! We don't have to go through any of this alone.


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