Church of Chub
Thesis Installation 2022
The work I have developed throughout undergrad has been a public exploration of identity as a means to practice the great unlearning of societal standards. I employ nostalgic objects that people are comfortable with and easily understand (such as a milk carton or a bag of cheese doodles) so that I can give them a security blanket of sorts to hold onto as I introduce radical, often uncomfortable content. The synergy between inward and outward confrontation is a driving force behind my work.
In my thesis installation, entitled The Church of Chub, I am exploring the themes of consumption, purity culture, and self worship. The phrase “glorifying obe$ity” is an insult that’s hurled at fat people who unapologetically exist in their bodies, decorate themselves, love themselves, and share themselves freely. Sometimes the most effective way to break down the hatred spewed at you, and harness its power for good, is to accept it as literal fact for a tiny moment. So I asked myself, what would a church dedicated to fatness look like?
The Church of Chub is a healing space to practice self salvation, authenticity, and non-conformity.
Across about two dozen video clips, collectively entitled Parade in Public What Won’t Be Kept Private, I experiment with what should be in my pants (Jesus, no. Hot sauce, yes.) I make out with apples, eat like a piggy, dance in a cloud of tinsel, spank asses with Kraft Singles, and attempt to lick christ off a cracker.
The videos play on a TV set atop a basic altar. They purposefully exist outside of the glowing pink of the rest of the church space as the truth in black and white with no sugar coating. Even if you only glance at the screen as you walk in and out of the more pretty pink space, you will get a healthy dose of reality. My truth is unavoidable; do with it what you will.
I chose to highlight fat icons that have been personally inspiring to my self acceptance and liberation. From left to right they are: Beth Ditto, Divine, Lizzo, Divine again, and Brittany Howard. They are all performers, each visceral in their own way, and I believe they should be worshiped for the physical and cultural athletes that they are.
Every body is a vessel, but it houses more than its own flesh and blood. By digitally breaking down, distorting, and layering the bodies of those I admire with myself, I am speaking to the process of understanding and building identity on a personal and historical level.
The materials used in this lightbox piece and most of the other work in the show are DIY to the core. They’re lowbrow, purposefully not archival. This speaks to how fat people have to make community seemingly out of nothing. I know my own worth and I similarly know the worth of packing tape and hot glue.
The Church of Chub is a space where WE are the icons of aspiration and history.
Throughout The Church of Chub I specifically chose religious symbols that had double meanings. Apples are used as objects of good health and love instead of their biblical association to sin via the Adam and Eve story, the snake is no longer the Christian symbol of evil but revered, as it is in many cultures around the world, as a symbol of rebirth and fertility, and here, stone tablets that once detailed rules now carry a manifesto of freedom.
The Da Vinci painting Salvator Mundi injects another historical religious work into The Church of Chub. In the original, the Christ figure raises his right hand in blessing and holds an orb in his left making him a savior of the cosmos. In researching religious iconography, this painting kept appearing, so I decided to use it as a base for a self portrait. My own personal message to the masses, my blessing if you will, is do what makes you happy. I eat sandwiches and you better believe I put mayonnaise on both sides of the bread.
My version of the “painting” is actually a digital print covered in impasto to make it seem old. This is a critique of how 95% of the art we study as trained artists is devoid of overtly queer, gender non conforming, and/or fat people. The lowbrow materials and amateur framing technique is a nod to the idea of faking it til you make it, which is an armour I regularly suit up in.
The Church of Chub is a space electrified with comforting queer energy, liberating rituals, and pleasure as creed.I wanted this room to glow pink for a few reasons: I find pink to be the most gender neutral color, it conjures up a seedy sex shop club vibe that I wanted to reference, and I think it is inviting. I often use vibrant candy colors to lure people into work that is politically charged, so I knew that the average person would be drawn to the light throughout the installation regardless of the content.
The packing tape sofa with a light shining on the caved in seat is the one reference I made to a fat stereotype, that being that we are all glutinous couch potatoes. Sitting on a snake rug and pulled up to a tray table with the joyful sentiment of eat your feelings, I am hoping the reference to a shedding of skin and the rejection of ideology is apparent.
In closing, the Church of Chub is a space that is available if you need it and all are welcome. I ended my artist statement with those words and I am ending my talk here for the same reason: fatphobia does not just affect fat individuals. The excluding of queerness in any form does not just affect queered individuals. The collective suffers when the weirdos are shamed.
Shame is such a difficult trauma to heal, because it regenerates and mutates so fluidly. I don’t believe I can truly ever fully heal from the effect shame has had on my life. But, I can show you my attempts to keep myself honest as I practice what I preach. Thanks for listening and thanks for hanging out (virtually) in the space I created.