Gwendolyn Anne Davies
Claiming Space is a set of large, glossy, full color poster prints pinned to the gallery wall. The images are presented to reference and confront the ideas of beauty, desire, and representation. Through the poster prints, I am challenging the ways ideals of femininity and beauty are disseminated in visual culture. The title, Claiming Space, addresses the underrepresentation and misrepresentation of women, especially plus-sized women in media, declaring the right to be represented and seen.
Historically the pin-up girl has been a way that the standards for fashion and ideals of the feminine figure have been spread and reinforced in American culture. These images created a new standard of behavior and ideal feminine representation. By displaying my photographs as 24” by 36” posters, with creases and folds, pinned to the gallery wall, I reference the pin-up and use the power of it to assert a different standard. By controlling the image and presentation of it as a representation of my body, I am claiming my right to be seen as I want to be seen. The posters are created through a third-party, small run printer. The color is not refined like a fine art print, hinting to the mass production of posters. I use the poster as the mode of representation to address the way images are often disseminated to communicate what the ideal woman looks like. As such despite having controlled everything from capture to presentation of the image, I am also acknowledging my inability to control how an image of me is viewed or consumed by an audience.
Girls and women often take cues on their beauty and value from images seen around them. Refinery 29 started the 67% Project, a campaign to move plus-sized women’s representation from being niche to normalized, based on the finding that 67% percent of American women are a size 14 or larger yet only 2% of the images in the fashion industry represent them. Being so grossly underrepresented makes women in this group feel invisible by comparison to the women represented. The impossible standards of beauty observed by woman serve to teach them that they must conform to these standards or they are fundamentally flawed, even at a young age. Claiming Space challenges this underrepresentation of plus-sized women in media, asserting the right to be represented and seen.
It is my intention to present a woman who is not different because of her size but a woman who owns her size by showcasing power, strength, vulnerability, and sexuality. By referencing the popularity and commercial power of the pin-up girl to shape the understanding of America’s sensibility and standards, through the glossy posters in Claiming Space, I am claiming the power to use that language to challenge ideas of femininity, beauty, desire, and representation – presenting a new standard.
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