A sculpture made of nylon mesh is suspended from the 25-foot ceiling of the Brew House Gallery in the South Side as part of a new exhibit “Soma Grossa.”
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“Bulge,” by artist Elisha Cox of the United Kingdom, is meant for the audience to touch. As a pendulum sways side to side, flour spills out, asking the audience to think about the aversion to fatness, the fragility of the body and the precariousness of weight loss and gain.
“Basically the piece is meant to be this kind of way for the audience to interact with the idea of weight and the pendulousness of this body…” said exhibit curator Anna Mirzayan.
It also evokes the overall idea of “Soma Grossa,” which is meant to confront anti-fat bias while creating a space for fat artists. The show opened Thursday, Nov. 17, and runs through Jan. 14.
“A lot of the pieces in this show are specifically about challenging the audience and challenging what is valuable,” Mirzayan said.
Another piece, “Mermaid Tail,” by Jesse Egner, is an archival pigment print featuring two men sitting on a couch, both wearing only underwear, with one man’s lower half tied with ropes as in a bondage scene.
Egner and Néstor Daniel Pérez-Molière, who displayed a performance piece at the show’s opening, both explore the masculine queer fat body, Mirzayan said. The artists approach how those bodies are rejected or accepted into the queer scene.
“That’s going to be a really interesting thing for the audience to think about,” Mirzayan said.
Mirzayan said there’s a line in the gallery text that says fat phobia is often referred to as “the last acceptable bias.”
“[That’s] obviously not true, of course,” she continued, “but it’s an important sort of colloquialism because fat phobia just feels so accepted and not framed as problematic and really life — both existential and physical life — threatening to so many people.”
“Soma Grossa,” which translates to “gross body” in Latin, has a double meaning for the purpose of the show.
“I really liked the word ‘grossa’ because it obviously sounds like the word gross, but it also has this double meaning of gross pay, for example, or something that you have before you deduct anything,” Mirzayan said. “And I liked the double entendre of the grossness of the fat body supposedly, and the idea of you make all these deductions and you lose all this weight and then you’re not gross anymore.”
The exhibition came about through Brew House’s Prospectus Emerging Curator program. Brew House Executive Director Natalie Sweet said “Soma Grossa” fits the nonprofit’s mission.
“One of our values is sharing non-mainstream perspectives through the artwork and the themes we show in the gallery,” she said.
“I think what Anna has done so beautifully in this show is bringing together such a mix of artists from across the world into this space to reflect a whole community that’s existing and really being able to open up space not only for that community to see themselves reflected in the world but also for other people to open up understanding and empathy around different kinds of experiences.”
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