Monday, February 9, 2009

Regarding Lauren Greenfield

(c) Lauren Greenfield

It feels like a few words should be said about my previous mishmash of a post. For a while now I have been grappling with the idea of significance in art—that is, it seems that much of contemporary art, when viewed by the average citizen (if viewed by the average citizen), elicits one of two responses: "wow, neat" or "I don't get it." That is, much of contemporary art is so steeped in theory, so necessarily steeped in theory, due to the expectations and demands of the contemporary art world, that it demands at least an explanation, if not an art degree, to be comprehensible. What I've been looking for, and what I'd ideally like to do with my own practice, is to create art that is at once approachable, can hold it's own as fine art, and is significant, i.e. prompts the viewer to re-examine his/her world in a way that promotes positive social change.

(c) Lauren Greenfield

Enter Lauren Greenfield. Her subject matter is often female, often youth. But in looking specifically at this demographic, she addresses pivotal issues—issues that affect every American—and does so in a way that is approachable and relevant. When we watch a documentary such as Thin (which explores the recovery process of anorexic women at the Renfrew Center in Florida), we can't avoid seeing aspects of ourselves in the extreme behaviors of the subjects, can't help reexamining the values we hold as individuals and as a society. And this is important—not only for us as Americans, but for the world we continue to influence.

Saw Thin at LACMA Sunday. It blew me away. I'm going to post a bit of one of the Renfrew women's stories here. Polly committed suicide in February, 2008.


"I came to Renfrew after a suicide attempt over two pieces of pizza. That was obviously not the whole reason why I tried to kill myself. That was just kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Dieting has always been a huge part of my life. I remember all the things that are symptoms of eating disorders being taught by my family: to cut my food into really small pieces, and chew very slowly and take your time, and always drink water in between so that your stomach fills up faster. I was counting calories and counting fat by the time I was 11.

I had diet pills packed in my lunch when I was in elementary school. When I was 10 years old, my mother and aunt paid me $100 each to lose 10 pounds. I always thought I was fat. It wasn’t until recently when I pulled out an old photo album that I was like, Oh my gosh. I really wasn’t fat. I’ve had a distorted view of myself pretty much most of my life.

I remember being a kid and not having an eating disorder, but I don’t remember a time ever in my life when food and dieting weren’t an issue. It was always low-fat this, low-fat that. At the pool, you had a Popsicle instead of a candy bar because the Popsicle had less fat. The message was, when you’re thin, you’re prettier. You’ll get boyfriends faster. You’ll get married faster."

Excerpted from "Thin" by Lauren Greenfield with an introduction by Joan Jacobs Brumberg. Copyright 2006 by Lauren Greenfield.

(c) Lauren Greenfield

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