Fear Foods explores the role food plays in my present life, and the broader relationship between eating behaviors, body image, and Western constructions of binary femininity. In my process, I physically bought, ate, and painted specific foods I once negatively perceived as an adolescent/ballet dancer/gymnast struggling with body shame and disordered eating. The process is important to the work because the bodily and sensory experience involved in staging each fear food, photographing it, and consuming it allowed me to consciously document the emotions that surface, thus affecting the aesthetics.
I approach these seemingly banal American foods with uncertainty, exaggeration, and a bit of darkness. The close-up composition on the plate suggests an allure, yet the stickiness of the three-dimensional texture evokes a feeling of being stuck, entrapped. They convey tensions between lushness and the grotesque, attraction and intimidation, comfort and discomfort, object and subject.
I am interested in pushing food and materials into the territory of the abject to signal the body. When the food/material becomes a body, the spatial experience becomes rather uncomfortable. It can metaphorically suggest what happens when diet culture takes over in the pursuit of achieving “feminine” beauty ideals. Fear Foods considers the ways patriarchal thinking is nuanced in our day to day lives- from our socially constructed relationship with food to how we present ourselves in public versus private spaces.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
I am an artist and educator from Cary, Illinois. I grew up involved in competitive gymnastics and dance as both an athlete and coach. In my practice, I often utilize my experiences as an athlete, child, and adolescent to confront stereotypical notions of femininity and the nature of setting ideals on bodies, since dance and gymnastics are two aesthetic sports that are historically subjected to an intense level of body scrutiny. I believe that rewriting my personal history is a powerful force in the pursuit of defining my current personhood. I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BFA degree in Art Education. During my time there, I also minored in Art History to develop my interest in feminist art and the representation of women throughout Western historical painting. I am currently based in Gainesville, Florida, where I am pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in Painting and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies at the University of Florida. I am a recipient of the Grinter Fellowship and Graduate Teaching Assistantship.
© Natalie Novak