I’m writing this post today to share the origins of the Earthly Delights series of paintings. My intent was to share a statement about each of the paintings in the series in the coming months, however I was loathe to repeat this background with every post. It might also get a little repetitive for you the reader if you are following along reading the statements for each of the pieces. So this post is mainly here so I can link back to it in successive posts.
The inspiration for the Earthly Delight series follows from my own experience navigating contemporary health and diet culture: I lost over 35% of my body weight to achieve a normal range BMI, then maintained that weight loss for about 2 years before beginning a period of weight cycling. Technically this is still considered a weight loss success story as current definitions of long term weight loss include maintaining a reduction of 10% or more initial bodyweight a year or more. However, I realized in the past couple years that keeping my weight in the normal BMI range had become a Sisyphean task requiring more and more extreme measures that have been limiting my life as well as causing a variety of physical and psychological side effects not dissimilar to those described in anorexia or cases of semi-starvation. Yet, I can feel the health consequences of weight regain too, and fear the effects of potentially returning to my initial bodyweight. What to do?
The Earthly Delights series is an exploration of that journey. Early in 2019 I realized that I had developed a preference for understanding my world through the lens of food. Politics, culture, gender, money, it didn’t matter, if it could be understood through a menu, recipe or food analogy, I was interested. The fascination had even begun to infiltrate my art. I realized that I could spend countless hours in meticulously rendering images of food in my paintings. At the same time, I also realized that the paintings which had images of food in them were more generally remarkable when shared with my community. I began to think that my fixation might be more than just mine and that this might be a subject to explore in its own right. At the end of 2021 I began to explore my food fascination directly in small still life paintings of an anthropomorphized pear longing after a dome covered cake plate of dessert treats.
This lead to the larger scale series, 10 Still life Paintings in Places of 2022, where I contextualize the relationship of the pear to its longings through placing it in a number of real world locations that speak to the weight loss journey. In 2023 I am continuing the Earthly Delights inquiry with an exploration of the social/moral aspects of health and diet culture in Lost In The Garden.
As 28 – 30 percent of Canadians in the last couple years alone have indicated in polls an intent to start calorie restricted diets, but 80 percent of those who successfully lose weight will regain it within the year due to the body/minds reaction to caloric restriction, the statistics support that I am not alone in my experiences. Discussions with friends, family members and colleagues also confirmed this for me.
Everyone I spoke to about the project had a personal story to tell and a perspective to share, some of which I incorporated into the Earthly Delights as elements of their stories resonated and clarified my own experiences. Giving my journey a voice through art is an opportunity to do the same for others, transforming personal challenges into an expression and exploration that can help others understand this all too common journey freshly.