Empowerment is a word we use regularly at SINGULART, but it is not a word we use lightly. Self-empowerment and the empowerment of others comes in many forms and may look different from one person to another. As part of our mission to empower our artists, we want to make SINGULART a platform where both our artists and collectors are able to support causes they feel strongly about. Therefore, SINGULART has been collaborating with Beauty Redefined to create a Body Positivity Auction, with the proceeds being donated to the charity.
Art and Body Positivity
The human form has long been a source of inspiration for artists. From Michaelangelo’s anatomical drawings to Jenny Saville’s fleshy forms, the body has always created awe and adoration amongst artists and audiences alike. Yet the relationship between the self and the body is often more complex. In modern culture, the difficulty in feeling comfortable in our bodies is a widespread issue, and truly loving oneself for more than just our appearance can plague even the most outwardly confident.
Just as with one’s taste in art, we feel that the perception of beauty is something very personal. However, we must remember that our body’s value does not solely reside in the aesthetic. Beauty refers not just to the visual realm. A beautiful artwork is one that has the power to inspire, to evoke emotion, and to instigate change, and we at SINGULART believe that a beautiful body is one that allows you to experience life to the fullest.
This powerful message is at the heart of one of the charities featured in our auction, Beauty Redefined. In order to find out more about the nature of self-perception and self-confidence, we spoke to charity co-founders, and co-authors of the new book ‘More than a Body’, Lexie and Lindsay Kite, PhD.
Could you tell us why you founded Beauty Redefined and why body positivity is so important to you?
Ever since we started learning our freshman year of college in 2003 about the ways media had warped and distorted representations of women to fit extremely narrow, profit-driven ideals, we were hooked. We both felt so strongly that we had been personally impacted by a real fixation on our weight and beauty starting in middle school – a fixation that never served us and really held us back from bigger and better things – and over time, the more we studied, the more liberated we felt from some of that shame and fixation.
We were first motivated to start sharing our work at the end of our master’s degrees when we felt like our research findings were too relevant to hide away in a thesis that only professors would see. We took a more public approach to our doctoral work as well, always sharing parts of it on our blog (morethanabody.org/blog) and social media (Instagram.com/beauty_redefined), plus giving presentations to any groups who would host us.
Honestly, it’s a combination of things that keep us motivated and passionate about sharing our work: it’s love for girls and women who are preyed upon by industries that bank on their insecurity and disempowerment, and rage at the ever-evolving ways girls and women are preyed upon under the guise of “empowerment.” Helping people build their body image resilience is really a personal and professional passion for both of us.
What kind of charitable activities do you do?
One of the main ways we give back is by making our unique and effective body image training accessible to those who need it but can’t afford it – both individuals and groups or classrooms. Over the last several years, we have offered our 8-week online body image resilience course to hundreds of teens and adults in need at no cost. Our in-depth course was developed and tested through our doctoral research and is shown to improve body image, self-efficacy, media literacy and more, so we are happy to get it into the hands of those in need of help. We have also offered in-person and virtual trainings and speaking events at no cost for groups in need for the last 10+ years, including at-risk youth and adults who are struggling under the weight of beauty standards and objectification.
Could you explain your body image resilience philosophy, how and why is this different from body positivity?
Here’s what we want people to know: Positive body image isn’t believing your body *looks* good, it is knowing your body *is good,* regardless of how it looks. Most people think body confidence is rooted in accepting how you look. That’s why body positive influencers are so popular – they show and tell you how confident they are in their looks so you can feel good too. This is a first step toward body confidence for lots of people, but it is not the only step. Your body is not an object to be looked at, so healing your body image — your perception and feelings about your body – is not about changing how you view your body; it’s about changing how you value your body. We really believe our unique model for helping people develop body image resilience is key to helping people see and experience themselves as more.
Building your body image resilience is an ongoing, continuous process, and not a stopping point where the beauty pressures of our environments magically lose all their power. It is a muscle you strengthen over time through deliberate, compassionate strategies that help you return to your body as your home rather than an object you judge and evaluate from afar. When you build your body image resilience, you learn to see the ways our objectifying culture creates and sparks your body anxiety, and instead of coping with those painful experiences by hurting, hiding, or “fixing” your body, you practice skills and strategies that serve you and improve your body image.
How do you think art can help disrupt the current media distortion of what is considered beautiful or aesthetic?
Art can help disrupt the myth that who or what is beautiful or “aesthetically pleasing” looks one specific way. By utilizing artistic creativity instead of replicating tired ideals and stereotypes, artists can be at the forefront of reshaping people’s perceptions about what constitutes not only beauty but also normalcy and what it can look like to be a woman or a human in all its wonderful variety.
What place should beauty or visual pleasure hold in our lives?
Beauty and visual pleasure should be just that – pleasurable! But our perspective on physical beauty is shaped by a culture that values women’s beauty at the expense of our humanity, which really drains the pleasure from an otherwise positive concept. That perspective requires us to always approach discussions of beauty with a really conscious and critical perspective to contextualize what role in plays in our lives and especially in our self-perceptions.
There’s definitely some self-expression, creativity, fun and social capital that comes from fashion and beauty work, especially those that align with today’s ideals for women. We’re all complicit in this beauty culture and its double standards, so it is each of our responsibility to draw the line for ourselves about what beauty means to us and how we value it – for ourselves and how we view and value others. Too often, we’re constantly trying to earn our self-worth and validation through keeping up with changing beauty ideals as we age and grow. We recommend taking a critical look at how you define physical “beauty” and how those ideals have been shaped in particular cohesive ways by a sexist culture that profits from women’s insecurity and subjugation.
At SINGULART we strive to empower our artists wherever possible, are there any SINGULART artists that you find empowering in relation to body image resilience?
We love Merry Sparks’ bold, colorful work and her unapologetic take on her art: ”A ‘nice’ compliment is an insult as my art is a mark of history, a moment in time. As Andy Warhol once said, ‘Art is anything you can get away with’.” Raquel Sarángello’s paintings beautifully represent the art of bodies as they are – not as the narrow, prescribed ideals we so often are confined to seeing. Makiwa Mutomba’s work stirs up feelings of pride, strength, and beauty. There are bold notions of resilience, compassion, and humanity in the work and the personal stories and vision of so many of SINGULART’s artists.
What is it about art that you find inspiring?
Art is inspiring because the act of creating and the product of that creation is transformative. For the artist and the consumer, art is moving, healing, and illustrates what words often fail to explain.
Thank you to Lexie and Lindsay for taking the time to answer our questions on Body Positivity !