Monthly Archives: January 2007

Everyday Heroes

Debbie says:

I had a lovely vacation in the Florida Keys, with some of my oldest and dearest friends. As Laurie mentioned, I stayed pretty much completely off the Internet, which is where I usually get most of my information, much of my entertainment, and the vast bulk of my daily dose of advertising.

Last week was different. We got a newspaper every day, and read it. We had broadcast TV on every morning to check the weather, and for a couple of hours most evenings, after it got too dark to birdwatch. We watched movies, sports, The Daily Show, the things my friends watch while I’m reading or hanging out on the Internet. And the remote in our rental house, for some unknown reason, did not have a “mute” button.

It was like being thrown into the way deep end of the pool. Intellectually, I know how much Americans are bombarded with the “you’re ugly” message. Knowing it intellectually is vastly different from spending a week with it. Watching the ads shift from exercise machine to diet pill to diet-pill-that-is-also-a-sleep-aid to hair-thinning cure, was simultaneously horrifying and enlightening.
At one point, I started counting advertisements to see how many of them were about anything “real,” i.e., anything a person could do with their time or buy and then still have. There were some furniture ads. There were a very few around-the-house project ads. There were exercise machines, which are apparently all about getting to watch more TV instead of *gasp* taking a walk. There was one travel ad, which repeatedly stressed how women traveling to Italy are more interested in the high-heeled shoes than the historical or natural wonders. And lots of food and restaurant ads: pizza, fast food, occasionally a higher-end restaurant.
While I literally wasn’t watching, TV advertising appears to have shifted to focus almost entirely on what you can do to change your appearance for the “better,” while exhorting you to keep eating junk and never, ever, use your body for any kind of pleasurable movement except on an exercise bike in front of the TV. Or maybe it was always that bad, and I just don’t remember. (I think I remember more ads for clothes, or housewares, or activities.)

Aside from being alternately frustrated, enraged, and fascinated by what I saw, I came away a little chastened: I think one of the reasons that it’s easy (well, easier) for me to maintain my basic satisfaction with my own body is that I’ve cut dozens if not hundreds, of negative messages a day out of my life.

The effort to push that crap out of our heads is significant, and endless. And that takes us to the title of the post: those of you who are watching TV and still staying positive about your bodies? You’re heroes. I say, keep up the good work, give yourselves breaks when you can, and use that “mute” button!

television, advertising, diet, body image, size acceptance, Body Impolitic

Mother, May I?

Laurie says:

Later in February I’ll be going to NYC in part to speak at a memorial forTee Corinne by the Queer Caucus of the College Art Association Conference, a conference for teachers, curators, and artists. Tee was a founding member of the Queer Caucus of the CAA. The Caucus is sponsoring an exhibition “Mother, May I?” curated by Sheila Pepe at the Campbell Soady Gallery at The LGBT Community Center (208 W. 13th Street, NYC ). It runs from February 1 through April 26, 2007.

It includes this portrait of Tee I took about 2 months before she died.

Laurie's portrait of Tee

And this portrait from her “scars” series.

Tee self-portrait

Tee Corinne and I knew each other for many years. We changed mother and daughter roles with great frequency around our art. And since daughters often “mother” their own mothers, who was in which role was sometimes a little hard to call.

We gave each other motherly advice from our experience about our work and sometimes explained to each other in daughterly ways why the advice didn’t suit us.

Tee was a master of photographic self portraits. When I was photographing her last summer I could feel everything she wasn’t saying to me as I shot her photos. She truly wanted the photos to be my images. But I could still hear her “mother’s” voice telling me how to shoot, and in a very appropriately daughterly way I simultaneously ignored and was influenced by her words.

When she was diagnosed last February, my role transformed itself into almost exclusively daughter, in the obvious ways of helping her work on the future of her art after her death and taking on the responsibility of aesthetic curator for her “Scars, Stoma, Ostomy Bag, Portacath: picturing cancer in our lives” project.

Far more important for me was what I learned while watching her work and plan for the preservation and exhibition of her work after her death. Tee planned with great force and elegance for a very long artistic future. Watching and helping her seriously changed the way I see the long-term future of my own work. My choices are very different from Tee’s and I would not have made them without my experience with her. I can already hear her voice approving and disapproving of my choices. There is nothing more “motherly” than that.

Tee Corinne, photography, College Art Association, Queer Caucus, queer, daughters, cancer, Body Impolitic