I want to be a fat bitch in a Peter Paul Rubens painting. Snowy chest, wrinkled knees, soft pink flesh. My hair golden wreaths either side of my flushed cheeks. My belly glows like I swallowed the sun whole. I look fragile and floaty like a vase you really wanna smash.
I want my flesh rolls suspended like reams of satin, adorned by my red parted lips and my other, more delicate features. . .you can fill them in. I want to live in a boudoir painting, always reclining, always naked. Always warm, always safe. Always looking out the corner of my eye, off over the mountains of my breasts and far away.
But the only times I actually loaf around are when my eyes are rimmed with hate (for myself and for the world). Even when it is eleven A.M. already and the dog needs a walk and my bladder is painful-full and I need to take my antidepressants so I won’t get brain zaps I lie there, still. I’m only a Rubens model when my body sprawls like a fat lump and my mind slackens too, when I’m too relaxed to notice. But O fuck, I want to be one of these women, golden and expansive, a pancake drizzled in sun syrup.
I see Raphael; I raise him. . . I want to see these golden expansive women, and I also want to be one. But also, I want to fuck one of these golden expansive women. And: I want to observe me and these women fucking, all of us expansive and golden syrup-drizzled. I want to paint us writhing and quivering in fat strokes of oil. Am I passing the Bechdel test?
I’m painting my own pussy with my own warm pussy juice. I’m calling it vanity, because self-love is a crime so holy it could never be worthy of the sin bin.
I say: yes please.
Whenever I visit a new city and there’s nothing to do I go to the big official gallery. I roam around and look at the old paintings of the plump, naked women. I like to imagine all that hot, rippling flesh when it was animated with hot, rippling life. I think about the sex these bodies had or didn’t have. I picture them as they bray like cows in fields under a full moon or disappear under oil painters in velvet boudoirs as they are consecrated between thrusts, made into muses. Or as they masturbate furiously, silently, under filthy sheets washed once a year or neverwashed (when was detergent invented? And who had access to it, when? I could find out but. . .).
I think about them wrapped up in old white men’s ideas of beauty like prime rib in toilet paper, the kind that really chafes. But why is it that when I think of these women my first instinct is to think of them as meat? I think about the lives that drove their doughy behinds. Just like the hot wind that propels me now. Just like I ate too many chickpeas at lunch. I did eat too many chickpeas at lunch.
I think of the glistening sweat on their brows the painter whisked away with a few choice hog’s hairs on their brush. I think about the poor hog and its poor hair.
It doesn’t matter if these women are amalgams who didn’t really exist. It doesn’t matter if they are Romance-era-Facetuned, cut-and-pasted, Instagram-dog-filtered into oblivion. Or if they are male models made to look like women, with bizarre musculature like a segmented insect.
Everyone does it, just no-one talks about it. Wives turn a blind eye. Mistresses turn an even blinder eye. Servants dust areolas large as dinner plates, stifling giggles. I stare and I stare at the glistening walls of flesh as though I might enter the gilded frame by osmosis. God can’t stop me, not even a security guard can. They’re both probably horny art appreciators, too.
And while we’re on that (if we are), Peter Paul Rubens, was a bona fide (boner-fied) chubby chaser.
Peter Paul Rubens, you know him? 17th century Flemish painter, known for his naked paintings of creamy fat white women, like big creamy lumps of. . . cream? You know him?
Peter Paul Rubens, origin of the term Rubenesque, the euphemism for fat women which has passed generation to generation, because fat chicks are best named after the men who lusted after them. You know him?
Peter Paul Rubens, he married three times, his second wife, Hélène Fourment, a child at sixteen years of age, less than a third of his fifty-three. He painted this child-wife naked (much more naked than I have depicted her) except for. . . a giant fur coat? And no smile? I PROMISE, YOU KNOW HIM.
In a letter to his friend about the marriage, he wrote:
Peter Paul Rubens, however, was not the first dirty dog. There have been plenty before and plenty after, and plenty more emerging from the woodwork, now, like insects whirring their tiny mouth-tractors, wrapped in their old sports team jackets and scraggly moustaches, doused in musty cologne.
Why did Rubens paint fat chicks anyway? Maybe Rubens was jealous he didn’t have big cans. I would be jealous, too, but then, I have big cans.
Rubens chased chub but he wasn’t even tubby himself. He lamented the chubbiness of modern men:
Like my mother always said, men like women with long hair, so they can’t run away. Maybe Rubens wanted them fatter so he could have something to hold onto, to hold women in place.
Rubens loved fat chicks, but not all fat chicks.
In her book, Fearing the Black Body, Strings writes about how in Western thought a fear of fatness has grown to stand-in for fear of Blackness. What follows is probably a grossly oversimplified summary of some of her findings, but I will try anyway.
She writes that, though Black women were once afforded respect and aesthetic appreciation in Dutch traditions in the sixteenth century, as voluptuous bodily exemplars, a shift occurred in the seventeenth century, as Europeans were exposed to more Black women through the transportation of slaves by the Dutch West India Company (WIC) (like literally whattheshit but also of course).
Because of the increased transport of sugar (called ‘white gold’, lol) from English and Dutch colonies, by 1620, doctors lamented the fattening of the English. They were becoming big and round, like big jersey cows. Or maybe not, but that’s the cutesy image my brain conjured. Even Shakespeare, who was like, the big bad swaggering poet genius of Elizabethan times, thought that fat men were dumbasses. This was suggested through his inclusion of the fat dumbass character Falstaff in several of his plays. Fear of fatness was not just a fear of bad health, particularly gout, which sounds like a very quaint and old-timey disease to have, like dropsy, which sounds like woopsy, I dropped something. Strings argues that greater than concerns about the potential relationship between fat and health during this era was the dread of fatness as indicative of weak character and dullness of mind. Those who could control their body shapes were perceived as evidently having mastered their animal nature. And how much does that sound like contemporary diet culture??? A lot. I think.
Due to trending ideas about race in the late seventeenth century, Black women’s presumed racial proclivities (including that of irrational and unrestrained eating) would transform them into the unsightly—even ‘monstrously’—fat, depicted in opposition to the white women’s bodies, which were coded as thin and brittle, arms ready to snap off any moment like the spouts on fine China teapots in the dishwasher, or about to shrivel from lead paint poisoning from alabaster makeup (true, women really did put that shit on themselves). A conflation of Blackness with monstrosity, aberration, coincided and was fuelled by the rise of racist ideas about physiognomy; how the body’s appearance was thought to betray behavioural problems, criminality, defiance; and how these traits were used to justify various colonial violences. You only need to think of the Khoikhoi woman Sarah Baartman (known pejoratively as Hottentot Venus, I won’t depict her here, if you’re curious you can look it up). She endured horrors, and I don’t use that word hyperbolically here; they were real, legitimate horrors, in her life and after her death. Transported around by Europeans as a freakshow subject, depicted horrendously in European art, her body parts kept and held on display in museums for hundreds of years post her depth.
Fatness, in European scientific, artistic, cultural thought, became a spectre, haunting, stalking behind, threatening to taint white women’s thinness (to hit skinny over the head with the fat stick). In contemporary diet culture the influence of this first violence continues to seep into our thinking. The Black body is coded as fat and Other, and the fat body as Other, and thus Black, something for white women to rail and diet-pill and Zumba themselves relentlessly against (unless it’s just a fat ass or lips, or a spray tan; these traits can be assumed by white women to make them Kardashian-Hot). Hate is, I guess, nothing if not marked by contradiction.
Is it possible to learn from history, let alone rewrite it? I am trying to embrace the fat body, to love the fat body, to reverse these entrenched notions and how they have influenced me, subconsciously and not. To pull the lid off these notions and rip out the fetid shit that festers underneath. I am trying to use my subject position, my fat, white subject position, imperfect as it is, because it is all that I have. When I embrace my fat, white body, am I erasing Black, fat activists from the frame? I am trying not to. I’m not sure I get it right.
It’s important to remember history. It’s not something we should forget, like our keys. Dropped mindlessly on our collective desk among our Nazi knickknacks and harmful pharmaceuticals and genetic warfares and our consciences. Woopsy! If our history wasn’t screwed on (if it hadn’t screwed us) we would lose it.
So, what if all the fat ladies in the old paintings had been painters? What if instead of a chubby chaser (who himself loathed fatness) Rubens instead had been a fat muse?
Glazed heavenly in the seventeenth century sunlight like warm gravy, supping it up like a baby drinking apple sauce, anointed in oils? Glimmering like his asshole supped up a whole sun?
What if Renoir had been a chick? Would she still have said: ‘I paint with my prick’?
If roles were reversed, would Celia Paul have fucked her student, Lucian Freud, and overshadowed him, had a baby by him and refused to leave her wife, and left poor Freud desolate and underappreciated in a tiny apartment?
What if Picasso had been born a twenty-first century woman? Would she sit on her fat ass all day feeling sorry for herself? Doing Pilates sometimes but mostly just sitting around, feeling broken and flicking through Twitter? Lying on the floor of his studio, flicking the bean with one hand, scrolling through the dull monstrosity of his phone with the other, to give herself a raison d’etre, to avoid self-annihilation out of the sheermindnumbingfuckingboredomofbeingalive?
I want to know, would he be like:
Would he have fucked children, the same way he did in this version of history, would he have said ‘if you feel like fucking, fuck!’ and done so with his seventeen-year-old mistress while married to his wife?
Or, would he have painted Guernica but made it about all the Tinder dates who fucked him, tried to choke him without asking him, who never called after? (Asking for a friend.)
I came here to write all about the fat lady painters
but instead I went on and on about men for a bit. Woops. I want to write all about the fatass lady painters but couldn’t find them. I swear I saw them just yesterday.
They were right there. No, Mum. I will not retrace my steps.
I want to write about all the fatass lady painters, but how do you decide who is a fatass lady painter and who is voluptuous, (volumptuous?) and who is curvaceous and who is chubby and who is chunky who is plus-size and who is mini-size Father’s Day Toblerone-size? (Hi hungry, I’m dad).
Who will be offended to be unilaterally fat-identified, even from beyond the grave, their embarrassment rocketing back through time and space to slap them in the face with a bodily shame they never experienced firsthand?
Like: I actually identify as a size-six Gemini, who eats nothing and drinks black coffee, yet has white teeth. Like: I actually identify as a squat, toothless woman living in France in the middle ages and dying of a since-cured disease, which is why I am now an anti-vaxxer; please respect my bespoke time-traveller beliefs.
I extend the question, I revise the scholarship. I ask:
I mean, it’s the headline of the article, which means her editor probably wrote it, but still.
By positing fat femme artists as a worthy cultural category
Am I reducing them, liposucting their value
(‘scuse the expression)
Flattening them down
to the simple fact of their bodies?
Is there something essential about being a woman artist?
Is there something essential about being a woman and an artist and fat?
I mean, obviously not.
I am not that dumbass who believes that just because someone is an artist and is fat that they will make good work, or that they will appreciate being told they are fat, or that their body and its shape has anything to do with the shape of their work, or that the body is the only the everything or the all.
However, I do believe that all bodies are in some way entangled with their art and its creation, both for the physical fact of their hands moving and making and daubing and secreting onto the page, or clay, or computers, or iPads or whatever the fuck, but also for the fact that our flesh knowledge of being in the world cannothelpcannothelp but absorb into the bloodstream and become entangled with the artist and her mind, thoughts, feelings, whateverfuck, her relationship to productivity and creation. That the smears and slings and arrows and love and beauty and torment and victories and confidence-evisceratinghumiliationofexperience all coalesce to mark the etching plate of the soul (or whatever internal force/forces governs the body, whatever motions and undulations are occurring just beneath the surface like the tectonic plates before the earthquake). And that from this plate is derived every mark the artist makes, and while this plate dances and gets stabbed and scratched into, made unrecognisable to the self even, it must always be there, somewhere within. Beneath the poetic sensibility, the artistic outcome, the careerist drives and neoliberal desires and the Instagram feeds and the bad behaviour. I don’t think being fat is the deciding factor that seeps from the body to the page. But
And it’s a big butt
If I’m going to be a fat art appraiser
I’ll be the best little fat art appraiser that I can be
I want to put the fat bodies on the top of the pile
I want to squish the thin bodies out of commission
Will this be my life’s mission
Or a lazy intermission?
Do I want a fat Barbie president or
a President on the barbie
I want to write about:
Catherine Opie, Laura Aguilar, Julie Dowling, Lauren Buchness,
I want to write about women who devour the world like half-off Cadbury family blocks
I want to write about those that take up so much real estate on earth
They redirect their fat pussy lips to kiss the moon
I want to write about:
Kaylene Whiskey, Sue Tilley, Kezia Harrel,
Dorothy Iannone, Destiny Felix, Kathy Acker, Divine,
OK so maybe I don’t always mean literally fat
I might mean huge like a landslide
hungry like a vampire
I want to write about fat cuntis in extremis and fat ladydickus in extremis too
I want to write about:
Frances Waite, Ruby Hoppen, Alice Neel, Katherine Botten, Phoebe Wahl, Natasha Matila-Smith,
Shona McAndrew, Elizabeth Walden, Gina M. Contreras, whothefuckelse
I could go on. I could go onandonandon
but then I wouldn’t have any fucken names left
Proposal for the Museum of Fat Bitches’ Art
OK so first off I just wanna say fuck museums and their mausoleum bullshit
White walled cadaver halls
White bodies gone stale in parched fridge air
Big white institutions that treat people who aren’t that like trash
Snatch up their artifacts boys, snatch snatch snatch
Like how the British Museum loans out the shields and monuments to the people who they stole them from originally
Who they raped and pillaged and fucked up multi-generationally
Like a shithead big brother, or I don’t know, the ultimate fucking biggest sociopathic bully in the world
Like, you can have ‘em for a sec, but bring ‘em right back
Egypt wants their Rosetta Stone back, Easter Island wants its statues
And they say, stop your whingeing
But honestly, just saying, I never heard of anyone
Who whinges more than the British the royals the fucken Imperialist project
Anyhow, this museum will be different, believe me
A fat bitches’ museum by and for the fat bitches
In the following proposal I will convince you
Through the following proposal I will convince you
I will use evidence and examples
I will use the very patriarchal system of knowledge I tend to despise
I will use the STAR method
I will use my Sexuality
Without a modicum of digniTy
I will use my Assets
to convince you
You Will Be Convinced
The Fat Bitches’ Museum will be a grotesque monstrosity designed by Louise Bourgeois
It will resemble a giant sexy house spider with eight massive thighs, so many thighs
OR the Fat Bitches’ Museum will be a huge archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean
The only way to get there is to be the sole survivor of a tragic 1950s plane crash with the Big Bopper et al
To wash up there on a blow-up boat
that’s actually one of those blow-up sex dolls
Bedraggled and covered in seaweed
Roil up the sandy beach with sand grating your crotch
You have to get past Shirley Jackson, the big fat door bitch.
The Fat Bitches’ Museum was made up specifically to make me feel better
And then to torture myself a little bit
And then to make myself feel better again
This is the only way I know how to create
Laughing and crying in equal measure
Rubbing salt into the wound and then caramel
Then salt again
A salted caramel self-stinging salve
In the Museum of Fat Bitches’ Art there will be an installation where you are invited to take a cookie except the room will be one of those cookie jars that play that Jaws music dah-dum dah-dum dah-dum when you take one
The museum is not designed to make you feel good or bad
The museum is merely supposed to reflect the world outside its walls
To magnify your comfort or discomfort
In the museum there is a hall of skinny mirrors
In the museum you must exit through a clothing store, where they insist you try things on in the mirror located outside the changeroom, while the skinny store girls look on
it’s full of fucking mirrors
Mirrors on the ceiling designed for fucking in
And it has plaques everywhere reminding you:
In case you ever forgot
There are mirrors in the bathroom so that you can check that you wiped your arsehole clean
To remind you that ‘the museum is maintained by the donations of self-important arseholes’
Like myself and maybe like you, too
Be my benefactor?
Am I joking? do I tell a joke?
A joke’s gotta have a little element of truth to work
like how low-slung jeans aren’t proper slutty
if the g string’s not poking out
I cannot talk for anyone else but myself
but my self is hungry starving it needs to eat everyone
there can there will not
be a limit to my desire
The museum tour is hosted by me, I’m in a sexy nun’s outfit
She performs a litany she takes us to the first room we see a huge display of Catherine Opie’s photos she says:
Whose photography explores queerness and S&M
Her work is beautiful and raw
Her work encompasses the fluidity of sexual experience and gender expression
There is a print of Self portrait/Cutting by Catherine Opie
Opie is pictured with two happy women stick-figures carved into her back
with triangle skirts and puffy clouds and a house
Catherine Opie does this to reflect her heartbreak
At a breakup, the dreams she had of a family dissolving
Into clouds of blood which condense drip down her back
There is not just the photo there is the permanency
Of the scar created
In her photo: Self-portrait/Nursing, where she is breastfeeding her child
You can see the word which has ‘Pervert’ previously carved into her chest, which is documented in an earlier photo
It is now a ghostly scar
She is not either nor both
She either and both,
she is queer mother lover motherfucker rolled into one
WHY BE UGLY WHEN U CAN BE BEAUTIFUL?
Why be happy when you could be normel?
Why be ridiculous when you could be ridiculous
and not know how ridiculous you are?
Mark Aguhar’s Tumblr, first called ‘Call Out Queen’
Then ‘BLOGGING FOR BROWN GURLS’
is not online anymore
the only one left after their death is called ‘MarkAguhar’, it’s real professional with:
Drawings of neon text like: ‘I would rather be beautiful than male’
‘Lol reverse racism’; ‘I hate your white dick’
A photo of Aguhar in a pink dress surrounded by white scraps of paper that look like flowers, a pair of combat boots to the side
‘I’d rather be beautiful than be male’
A video of Aguhar on Photobooth, their image mirrored, mesmerically smoothing their hair into a perfect coif as a song plays that says ‘beautiful’ over and over again plays
The video is called WHY BE UGLY WHEN YOU CAN BE BEAUTIFUL
And I love the simplicity of this provocation like, it’s so simple!
With the right dress lipstick perfect updo
it’s like all the shittiness of the world could disappear
But they did have something valuable to say about art and self-care
About creating your own beauty
They were the same age as my sister when they died
Well my sister is older now
And it just makes me unbearably sad
In one post on her Tumblr in 2010 they wrote: TAKING CONTROL OF MY PHYSICAL BODY IS THE ONLY WAY FOR ME TO EXERT AGENCY IN A WORLD DESIGNED TO DEMOLISH MY PERSONHOOD.
And I sometimes feel similar, and I want to thank her for teaching me how to fight back.
Mark Aguhar rejected whiteness, which is fair
Art doesn’t have to love you back
I think of those white women who carry those signs, ‘We are the grand-daughters of the witches you couldn’t burn’
I get what you’re trying to say, but statistically, logically speaking
Our ancestors were probably the witch-burners
And then there is one of Katherine Botten’s self-portraits
A smudgy oil pastel with blue eyeshadow and text that says ‘Dior’ but in scrawled handwriting, not the actual logo
‘Self-care sculpture’: a bunch of native flowers in a vase
‘something easy for Kollektiv to assemble with little effort, no strain on the organisers. . . Native flowers a sculpture that is nurturing. That is ok to rot and die in the space. That can be thrown out after. No sending back, or moving around.‘
Cut-out scraps of Beverley Hills houses, beige California contemporary housewife despair
I love the way that she intertwines art practice and writing
Her poems are on the walls, too, like Fine Art Wedding:
Art practice is sick and fuels my ED/ I truly believe (deep down) that a woman’s worth and power are tied to her looks
In this poem she describes how to make a fine art wedding cake, an art piece with discordant streams of paint, sprinkles
Her work has much push-and-pull between ironic and sincere desire, layered over each other and melting into each other like chocolate icing melting in a downpour
I think maybe I agree with her about art-making
Like, writing is a great career move particularly if you’re a person who struggles to justify getting out of bed in the morning
Writing is great because it rewards my competitive spirit and my crushingly low self-esteem
It makes me feel stupid, and worthless, sometimes, and then also sometimes wonderful and high and lucid, which makes me forget those soul-vice times
Like when I get a nice message or comment
Or an email
And the reward centre of my brain goes into overdrive
But maybe that’s better than what I did when I was younger
which was do nothing, paint makeup on wear kitschy op shop outfits go to exhibition openings
at tiny not-for-profit galleries
where they would fill the white spaces with collages of ballerinas and rock formations; lightboxes with name of D-grade Australian celebrities; camouflage statues with Monster energy drink logos and lots of grime and oil swiped on everything
I would stand in the corner and not talk to anyone and feel the eyes of every cool art person in Melbourne all over me, who were also cool fashion people, rich people wearing ironic zip-off cargo pants and dero jumpers to affect being poor
looking at me,
like what is she even wearing, a dress?
None of my friends (were they even my friends really?) would come and rescue me (and I didn’t yet know that rescuing yourself in these scenarios is like the no. 1 task of adulthood) so I would go through the following procedure:
Don’t look at the art; stand outside and smoke and talk to someone until you have nothing left to say and then awkwardly say hey I need to go and get another drink, then get another drink and then smoke another cigarette talk to someone else until you have again run out of things to say, get another drink
Eventually, drunk on cheap wine
I would stagger to the tram and then the train home and think, why did I choose to do an Arts degree and not a Fine Arts Degree, wtf I am doing, why did I talk to that person in that way, wtf I am doing with my life wearing dumb vintage dresses and rolling my eyes and not engaging, not really engaging, with anything
so maybe actually being an artist and engaging and trying things
like making the Museum of Fat Bitches’ Art
is better than that
and teaching me to do that
She is one of my closest friends, Ruby Hoppen
She has pride of place in the Museum of Fat Bitches’ Art
You’ve got to allow me a little cronyism, right? If my friend is objectively a talented artist, right?
With her huge vibrant oil paintings of her and her children
Her huge quilts and tiny op-art quilts too
I got close with her when I went to Montreal
She was just like Suzanne from that Leonard Cohen Song
Teas and oranges, devouring life like no one I’d ever seen
‘And you know that she’s half-crazy but that’s why you want to be there’
She drew a giant gorilla on someone’s wall when she was high on MDMA
She woke up and made art every day like she was caught on fire by it and perhaps she was
She saw me, really saw me,
She told me that I was beautiful like an actress
She took my art seriously like no-one had before
I want to thank her for that
There is a room where a video by Kaylene Whiskey plays
She flies across the sky singing Jolene
There are her paintings of Dolly Parton, Coca-Cola, Cat Woman, Monkey from the TV show Monkey, Obama, Whoopi Goldberg from Sister Act
Her work is pure unfathomable joy
It is colour and it is life
There are rooms filled with Kezia Harrell’s paintings
Fat black women with cellulite like rivers streaming through their flesh
Candy coloured backgrounds
She is unapologetically fat and Black
There is a room full of Laura Aguilar’s portraits on the ceiling
Below them is Tracey Emin’s bed
You can lie on the bed to stare up at them like a fleshy night sky
There is also a bunch of what is often called ‘naïve art’
A term which I roundly hate
The Museum of Fat Bitches’ Art is not just for art school bitches
It is for hobby artists too, or artists who never got to go to school
On account of lack money or raising families or a lack of self-belief instilled through years of enduring living as not-men
The museum will be full of quilts Victorian hair lockets bad family portraits ugly drawings of babies
Underwear and jackets and brooches and my grandmother’s crotchet blankets
They will be given as much wall space as the other art
The walls themselves will not be white walls
There will be paintbrushes and collage materials and rolls of wool
Visitors will be invited to add work on the walls wherever there is no art
To add and add to the exhibition
The walls spreading out to infinity
Oh yes and in a little corner
Perhaps next to the bins
there are some of my pieces
Because I am somewhat of a narcissist and at heart I want to be remembered both for my silly little museum
and for my silly little arts
The Museum of Fat Women’s Art will be a testament to trying hard, to being a try-hard and being ok with being seen like that
I will not miss out
I will lean into frivolity and promiscuity and irrelevance
I will rage at the dying of my own good taste
while an audience of peers watches and screams
weirdly specific private insults that they must have stalked me for a while to have come up with
It’s an antidote to all the times I felt sand-bagged and useless
like there was no point and I should just shut up and go back to bed
It hangs in my imagination like
a piece of bad corporate art by the freeway
Like that Howard Arkley house suspended on wire by the ring road west of Naarm
A symbol of a suburban avarice for identical three-bedders on treed cul-de-sacs fanning out further than the human eye can see
But I’m sharing it with you cause
even as a concept it has worth
I am drawing a line in the sand
in the shape of my plan for the least realistic
museum of all time
And at least part of me must believe in it
while another bit is shrugging, its hands plunged in its pockets
eyes rolling skyward
while another part is holding up a sledgehammer
limbering up to you know
smash it to smithereens
The last part’s chest is
imperceptibly puffed like
one teensy bit proud
At the end of the museum tour:
hours years lifetimes later
we are all dancing with each other, my live fat body and all the dead ones and the misremembered and the erased, and you too, if you like to dance, we are grooving with history rewritten all over our flesh, forcefully, bloodily, we are cavorting we are fuckdancing, slowly, legs intertwined and the pussyjuice and the ladydickjuice it rains down, it’s Christmas, it’s Eid, it’s Diwali, it’s Purim, it’s miraculous is what it is, we are holding hands, we throw our heads back and cackle all cacophonical and catch snowflakes on our communal ecstatic tongue, everyone is watching now, every single goddamn soul in the universe has their eyes trained on us, and they are smiling, yes yes, they are smilingasonenow and we are smilingrightback
Eloise Grills is an essayist, poet and comics artist who is currently working on her first full-length illustrated essay collection,big beautiful female theory (Affirm Press, 2022). Her work has been recognised in awards including the QPF Prize for Innovation in Spoken Word, the Lifted Brow/RMIT Experimental Nonfiction Prize, the Peter Blazey Fellowship, the Felix Meyer Scholarship and the Woollahra Digital Literary Prize. Her graphic novel, Sexy Female Murderesses, was named one of TheSaturday Paper‘s best books of 2019, and her poetry collection, If you’re sexy and you know it slap your hams, was shortlisted for the Mary Gilmore Award. She works as a creative writing tutor at RMIT and as a facilitating artist with Arthur Creative at Melba services. She holds a Masters in Creative Writing, Editing and Publishing from Melbourne University.
The Fat Bitch in Art
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Harwood, Joseph, ‘Sue Tilley Interview’, AGITPROP. [Podcast] 18 April 2020, Available at: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/agitprop/id924341361 Accessed: 11/05/2021.
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Nelson, Maggie. The Argonauts. Minnesota: Graywolf, 2015.
Nochlin, Linda. ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?’ Women, Art and Power & Other Artists. United States: Harper Collins, 1988.
Sontag, Susan. Against Interpretation. New York, Farrar, Giroux and Strauss, 1966.
Strings, Sabrina. Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fatphobia. New York: NYU Press, 2019.
Vallarta, MT. ‘“I’d Rather Be Beautiful Than Male”: Remembering the Radical Art of Mark Aguhar’. Vice. Available at: https://www.vice.com/en/article/j5bwm8/mark-aguhar-art-id-rather-be-beautiful-than-male, Accessed: 15/4/2021
Wilson, Emma Kate. ‘Kaylene Whiskey. Art Profile, Available at:
https://www.artistprofile.com.au/kaylene-whiskey/ Accessed: 25/05/2021
Artworks referenced and/or recreated
Aguhar, Mark. Why Be Ugly When U Can Be Beautiful. 2011.
Aguhar, Mark. Untitled (Photograph), 2012. Available at: https://markaguhar.tumblr.com/image/18425566333, Accessed 26/05/2021
Botten, Katherine, Self Care Sculpture, 2016.
Harrell, Kezia. Home is Where the Heart is, 2019.
Harrell, Kezia. Bliss: Americana Hot Mamma, 2021.
Opie, Catherine. Self Portrait/Nursing, 2004, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Opie, Katherine. Self Portrait/Cutting, 1993. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Hoppen, Ruby. Untitled (Hawaiian Quilt), 2013.
Whiskey, Kaylene. Dolly’s Song, 2019, Roxlyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.
Photograph of Eloise by Leah Jing.