Eat What I Feel (2012-2013)
Eat What I Feel is a mixed media project that explores both the ideals of feminine identity through presentation and the issue of emotional eating.
For my installation at doris-mae, I created a series of collages from vintage cookbooks, diet books and fashion magazines that draw on my life as a woman eating. As part of this project, I recorded myself dining in public alone. The installation at doris-mae consists of these collages, video and an extravagant dining room tablescape where I will eat during the opening and in a series of public performances.
There is a connection to food and domestic space in this body of work. As a woman, I have been inspired by a number of feminist artists who have used the kitchen and food imagery to discuss stereotypes and sexism. The kitchen can be a homestead or a prison. It can be a place where a woman can feel trapped in her role while showing off her domestic talents. The display, preparation, and presentation of food as seen in the photos from vintage cookbooks illustrate that point.
While the private domestic space of the kitchen was what many feminist artists used as a background for their work, contemporary women are not necessarily bound to the confines of the kitchen any more. In my work, I am examining food itself as the oppressive force beyond the confines of the domestic space.
Since about the age of 12, I have battled with body issues. In my daily life, I am constantly aware of the amount of space I inhabit. I regularly feel judged and tend to judge myself based on the shape of others around me. In my collages, I examined these feelings of being judged and of taking up space. In many, the food depicted has eyes, staring at the viewer in judgment. In others, obese bodies are dissected, put on display like cuts of meat. I tried to capture a level of discomfort while simultaneously trying to find humor in the ridiculous notion that food can be judgmental.
Between doctors, media and even friends and family, I have been told countless times that I would have a better life if I lost weight. The constant adage that tends to be repeated over and over is the phrase “Just eat better and exercise more.” It wasn’t until recently, when I realized that I am an emotional eater, I learned “eating better” has many different meanings. It wasn’t just about what I was eating but when and even how I was eating.
When people hear the term “emotional eating” an image that comes to mind is that of a woman eating a pint of ice cream after a bad breakup with a boyfriend. However, the feelings associated with emotional eating are not always negative. In some situations, food can be used as a reward for something positive or as a remedy for boredom.
As a part of my process for this exhibition, I chose to eat in public and film myself. For me, the simple act of eating in public was difficult. It had less to do with emotional eating and more to do with my presentation of my body in public space. For me, there are two ways in which I eat: the way I eat in public in the presence of others and the way I eat alone and in private. The goal was to film myself eating alone in public in the way I would normally eat privately. I did this because I wanted to combat the insecurities I felt about the presentation of my body and become more confident and less self-critical.
When I began this project, I was never sure the outcome. It has been a year since I first started, and while it has been a difficult road, this project has made forced me to re-examine how I look at myself. It has also forced me to re-examine my relationship with food. While I still battle with emotional eating and body issues, I have reached a place where I feel more comfortable in my skin, a place where I feel better about leading a healthy life.