Fat Femme Artist Picks Apart Your Preconceived Notions Of Beauty, One Photo At A Time

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By Priscilla Frank


Day after day we’re fed image after image of a certain body aesthetic: tanned, toned, waxed, oiled and perhaps a little digitally retouched. Today let’s do things a little bit differently.

We want to honor beautiful bodies that break the conventions we encounter in magazines, on television, on billboards and just about everywhere else. The radical and magnificent photographs of artist and activist Kelli Jean Drinkwater deconstruct the oppressive body ideals that govern so many of our desires, cherishing the impact of real, human forms.

“As an artist and a woman of size my creative practice and my body politics are inseparable,” Drinkwater explained in an email to The Huffington Post. “Exploring ways to reclaim spaces and platforms that are often prohibitive to ‘othered’ bodies is a huge inspiration. I also enjoy the aesthetic potential of taking up space.”

For years Drinkwater has used art and performance to communicate her experience in a fat body, using humor and strength to challenge limited representations of bigger bodies and embolden fat positive visibility. (She also founded a fat femme synchronized swimming team called Aquaporko! which makes our hearts soar more than we can adequately express.)

“I was looking to make a movement piece using big bodied performers when [contemporary dance choreographer] Kate Champion approached me to collaborate with her on ‘Nothing to Lose.’ I loved that we were both conceptually in sync but coming from completely different perspectives. It was a very timely meeting.”


Champion’s company Force Majeure issued an Australia-wide call out for people that self-identified as fat, larger, or bigger bodied, distributing the message to body acceptance communities and creative and queer networks. The response was overwhelming, which, to Drinkwater and Champion, only reaffirmed the importance of the project.

“Kate’s interest in the choreographic potential of fat bodies as well as her intuitive approach to bringing out performers’ inerrant movement is, I believe, the only way a work on this subject could be achieved with authenticity and respect.
Both Kate and I are fascinated by the societal obsession with fatness and the way that impacts the movement potential and potency of having an entire cast of undeniably large bodies on stage.”


The resulting photographs, frozen moments of real bodies in motion, express courage, grace and fire, turning the human body into a vehicle for change, a mode of resistance. The subjects, donning bathing suits and lingerie, revel in the many peculiarities of flesh on the go; every wrinkle, dimple and fold speaking to the beautiful imperfections of all human beings.

“As a creative team we have approached this subject with authenticity to guide the material in ‘Nothing to Lose’ to go beyond the usual dialogue and approach when talking about fat. This approach is grounded in the lived experience of the cast and one that has a definite focus on movement vocabulary. We aim to provide a space where audiences are able to investigate the complexity of these performers’ lives and the relationships to their bodies, which in turn may inform the audience’s ideas around body size and challenge any preconceptions they may have.”

Read more here:: Huffintonpost


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