Naked, faceless, black and white images of bodies were scattered against all white walls in The Box last Friday for a steady stream of students and community members to see. The images included mid sections usually covered by clothes, sleek limbs contorted in unusual directions, and even a close-up picture of toes. The pictures were taken of Knox students, by Knox students, for a project called “Love Your Body.”
“Love Your Body” is an event sponsored by Students Against Sexism in Society and held events throughout last weekend, including discussions, an open mic reading, and a presentation by body cast artist Larry Kirkwood. All Knox students were invited to participate in the events, meant to challenge traditional ideas about sexism and body image.
“I hope that anyone who participated [in the weekend] used it as a space to break away from society’s expectations,” said sophomore Annie Zak, who organized the weekend.
Over sixty students participated as models in the photo shoot and were able to select one photograph that was hung in the gallery on Friday. Students were able to see all of the photos from this year’s photo shoot as well as some photos from years past.
“It’s interesting to have someone photograph you because they see things you don’t,” said Zak. “I hope that the models are able to break away from what society tells them [about body image].”
Zak participated as a model in this year’s shoot.
“It was a really good experience and I’m proud of myself for doing it,” said Zak. “It was empowering but it didn’t completely change how I view myself.”
There was also an open mic later in the evening on Friday where students could share poetry, short stories, and thoughts about their bodies and the way they interact with them.
Junior Tasha Coryell and sophomore Amelia Garcia read poems they had written about reclaiming their bodies while Zak read a piece by Eve Ensler. Senior Rachael Goodman-Williams read a personal piece. Senior Ashley Blazina read a story she wrote about her own sexual molestation as a child.
“The readers are able to get the power to reclaim their bodies,” said Zak. “A lot of people get different messages from it.”
Before the reading, Blazina passed around strips of paper and invited the audience to write a personal passage about their bodies on the strip. In between each performer at the open mic, Blazina read a few of the strips and the audience repeated back the words. Some strips admitted things people were self-conscious about regarding their bodies while others wrote about the things they loved about their bodies.
“It made [for] a feeling of connectivity between the audience,” said Zak.
As part of the Saturday events, Kirkwood presented his body casts at The Box and gave a talk about the experience of making them. The casts were plaster and showed mostly the mid sections of many different bodies. A few were casts in the display were of Knox alumni.
Kirkwood’s purpose in creating the casts was to communicate that body image is a relative concept.
“The casts are good because you can see the beauty in them, but they can be misleading,” said Zak. She mentioned a particular cast of a body that looked beautiful and perfect. That cast, Kirkwood told the audience, was made of a woman who had brain cancer.
Kirkwood brought about 20 body casts with him and has made over 500 in his career.
Zak said the only thing she hopes to improve upon the event for next year is to get more men involved. Negative body image ideas affect both men and women, Zak said, and everyone is welcome to participate.
“I think the weekend went really well,” said Zak.