Body Politics exhibit will open eyes

Friday, June 1, 2012 - 7:27pm
tammy vitale
“We should all try to love our bodies. We should question the beauty standards and advertising that makes us feel bad about how we look. I want to help open eyes to the torment we put ourselves through in order to meet a standard that few people could ever meet. You can decide what beauty is for yourself, but you cannot decide it for others.”

So said Heather Bartlett when I asked her what her intentions were with this year’s installation of Body Politics (on the 11th floor). Heather and I have collaborated on the creation of the Body Politics installation for Artomatic three times. This year, however, Heather must take ALL of the credit for the installation and she has done her usual outstanding job, including taking the photo to the right.

Situated on its own column, the Body Politics exhibit is smaller than past years but is still backed with chalk board for writing and drawing, and index cards for commenting and pinning to the netting on the column as in past years. 

1. How many Artomatics have you been in and why do you keep coming back?

This is my third. I keep coming back because it is a wonderful cause to support and because it is easier to exhibit my work in such an open-minded space.

I was at opening night last night [May 18] and a young girl, maybe nine years old, was with who I assume was her father. He was reading the model statements about their bodies and explaining to her what it all meant. That moment was worth every bit of effort and time it took to do the exhibit.

2. What do you hope to convey with your installation piece?

This year I am doing something I’ve never done before. On Saturday June 9th, from 10pm to midnight, several models of varying ages and sizes and I will be shedding most of our clothes and allowing visitors to the exhibit to write and paint directly on us. It takes the exhibit to brave new dimensions in my mind and I hope that it calls attention to beauty and judgement. Even though my self-esteem has evolved, I can feel vulnerable. I am not the beauty standard. In fact, I am quite fat and I am curious about what it will feel like to be so close to naked in a room full of people who are dressed and judging me. I was thinking about it last night as fellow artists, hipsters and well-heeled professionals padded by my exhibit and wondered what it will feel like when we start taking off our clothes and offering our bodies up as art exhibits.

4. How long have you been making art and what keeps you keeping on?

I have been making art since I was a child. I would lay out crayon drawings on the floor of my grandmother’s house and try to sell them for pennies or nickels to passing aunts and uncles. I took every elective art class ever available to me through the public school system. I then lost my confidence for a long time and put my family as a priority. I took art up again in my late twenties. Now at 42 years old I am making art all the time. What keeps me going is the feedback that I have changed somebody’s life and made it better or made them feel beautiful because of it. What keeps me at it is that it helps heal my soul and spirit when all other things fail to. It is therapy.

5. Anything else you’d like to tell me?

I appreciate Artomatic and the models and all of the creative souls who have changed my life. Also, it's a pain when you change your last name.

The full interview with Heather appears on my blog.