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May 19, 2007

Covering Nimoy’s Latest Subject

Nimoy-Plus-Subject-Matter

Even though the article outlines how he became concerned with the obese female form, because this is The Times and there are standards to uphold, photographer Leonard Nimoy had better not move his head.

It’s not just the visual censorship, but the story doesn’t even offer a link to Nimoy’s controversial subject matter.  This image, at this size, appears below the featured photo showing a far less severe-looking Mr. Nimoy in front of a wall of his own, unrelated (and much less discernible) photographs.

Here’s the photo above without Nimoy standing in front of it; the home page of Nimoy’s “Full Body Project,” and background on Nimoy’s previous, and also controversial series, The Shekhina Project, examples of which form the background in the article’s lead shot.



(image: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times. 2007. nytimes.com)

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  • arty

    Excuse me. Are you saying the Times is somehow letting the world down because a fading actor can’t show off his success in getting overweight women to strip in front of his camera?
    This story ran in the Styles section, which is even more beside the point than Sports. Nimoy’s publicist needed to show some results for all those fees. The Styles editors are always looking for trainwrecks to fill their pages. Voila, an actor is a photographic star, finding truth in excess!
    And now the paper is at fault for not providing a link, and for keeping nudity out of its pages.
    Rest assured, Mr. Nimoy will still sell his pictures to an adoring public. The world, free or not, will not suffer because it was deprived of claptrap freely available with a few keystrokes.
    There really are other things going on in the world.

  • tina

    Some people have always fetishized fat women. Nimoy’s pics look like artsy versions of that.
    Extreme obesity in both men and women interferes with pleasurable sex and is associated with increasing age and medical problems. It is never going to be really “sexy”; we may even be biologically hardwired not to find it so. Infertility, low birth weight, and increased infant mortality mar the reproductive lives of very fat women, and men may actually avoid this on an unconscious level. This is controversial, I know, and I am not 100% on board with it myself, but it’s something to think about.
    I find the series more than a little infantilizing, as well. Why is it “progress” to make all women sex objects? Oh yeah, the fatties are in teddies and some guys are going to like it….we’ve come a long way, baby! A bevy of females with hanging folds that look like plates of rhinocerous hide swanning it up on an escalator….great! That will help with the prejudice against the overweight (which does exist in spades)…let’s not portray them as smart or interesting, or successful, or as whole people…as long as we can assert, with moderate success, that they are fuckable, that’s all we need!
    I cannot see how these pictures are going to combat the basic assumptions about the overweight, which are that they are lazy people with bad personal habits and no self-control, otherwise they “wouldn’t let themselves get like that”. This is the really damaging stereotype and no amount of posing nude is going to help. Queen Latifa has done more for women of color and extra pounds than the “Full Body Project” ever will. I would say Oprah too, but she’s made a public spectacle out of hating herself about her weight for way too long.
    Where is the photo series about enormously fat men dancing a circle with their flab breasts and their pot bellies hanging down to their aching knees? Do we really blame women for cringing and saying “gaahhhhhh” at such a thought?
    Similarly, I refuse to condemn any man for not finding these “hot” (they are nice pictures, but the lingerie, the kick dancing in heels, and all the makeup bother me and take away from the art value, since they identify another agenda). There is, in a lot of the pictures, one woman who is, not skinny, but of normal weight. Come on now, who is really going to say she doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb as the more attractive?
    His head is in front of the picture because the Times wanted folks to be able to keep their breakfasts. That’s all, sorry to say so but it’s true.

  • margaret

    Tina, you are so hostile and so knowledgable(?) about what turns men on. There are cultural differences, and some men actually like all the flesh. And, of course, there’s always The Venus of Villendorf, an iconic figure from pre-historic times, representing a fertility figure.
    Health issues are separate from sex issues.
    Actually, I wonder why Nimoy’s work wasn’t reviewed by the Arts section of the NYT: did the editors there not consider him “serious?”
    It’s all pretty slick looking to me, but Robert Mapplethorpe set the standard for supposedly “repulsive” subject matter being photographed exquisitely, throwing the viewer into confusion about the definition of “beauty.”

  • http://www.reciprocity-failure.com stanco

    We live in a freedom loving country whose every inch was stolen at the point of a gun. We worship a god who told us to “love your enemy” and are willing to kill in his name. We bestow celebrity on our thinnest of females and make love to the most overweight on earth. So what’s the problem?

  • Samantha

    Interesting post, Tina. I agreed with a lot of it, the biological factor, the Queen Latifah observation, the excessive makeup.
    But I have a different take on it. I think it’s positive to portray heavy women in this manner, and I do think it’s empowering to them. The message that they’re “fuckable” is the message you see, which I admit is there (and is ok), but there’s a broader message of, “we’re here.”
    Also, I think that heavy women have one up on thin women (like myself). Thin women unfortunately are portrayed as stupid whores in most of the media (ala britney and paris), and if they are successful they are cold bitches (condi) or suspected as lesbians.
    Believe it or not, heavy women bring another message to men, and the public in general, (besides the lazy fat stereotype), which is motherhood, and power and presence. Latifah herself uses size to her advantage. And part of her moxy comes from that, I think.
    Look around in real life. Heavy women are usually found in middle and upper management in business, and when they are home they are the anchors of the household. The problem is they are driven to the corners of “public” life, embarrassed to show up at the gym, beach, pool, or in front of the camera in newsrooms and on Hollywood lots. But once a fat women claims her sexuality, as Latifah did, she brings ALL that traditional power with her.
    Maybe they are trying to do that in these photos, I don’t know. But generally they are not great. Someone like Liebowitz would have known how to pull this off. Some of Nemoy’s photos are uncomfortable to me because the subjects themselves seem uncomfortable, or because of how it was staged. In some of these pictures, I’m thinking, is this a cheap brothel or a concentration camp? The most successful photos clearly are the ones where the women ignore the camera and are relaxed, with joy on their faces. Some of the photos are also sensual.
    B+ for effort.

  • itwasntme

    Arty, what’s your problem? Cool off, friend. Examine your strong reaction, and you might just learn something.

  • readytoblowagasket

    I just think Leonard Nimoy’s head is in front of the nude photo because it makes a more interesting shape.

  • Cactus

    Are these photos merely parroting the poses of thinner models? Do the women want to pose like “Playboy” models ala the male sexual fantasies? Do I care that Nimoy may or may not be a chubby-chaser? Should I even take this former TV actor seriously as a photographer? Is the NYT censoring fat women, or Nimoy, or nudes? Is the NYT engaging in titillation of its audience (just as “Playboy” does) by showing only parts of a cleverly constructed photo of nude women? Cleverly constructed, that is, to avoid showing any bits of genitalia (dontcha just love that word?). You can look but do not touch.
    Okay, I admit that as a former struggling art photographer, I am annoyed by all those celebrities who pick up a camera and get books published of all their famous friends in their ‘off’ moments. But, Nimoy has been at this a long time (longer than his acting career, apparently) and is due some kudos for persistence. An argument could be made successfully that he is better at photography than poetry. The “Shekhina” series was interesting and thoughtful and probably well worth the critical acclaim. This series, though, I’m at a loss to discover the why. Is it just to see how the light and shadow play over folds of flesh? I can think of better ways of doing that. Is it an attempt to sexualize fat women just as men sexualize thinner women? Again, I’ve seen better such depictions. As a series I find it less than successful. In a couple of the images he seems to have touched on something iconic, but then he slips back into the mimicry of male sexual fantasies using fat models. In 3 or 4 of the images he seems to be really stretching whatever concept he had by just staging the models around various objects, and the models look to be rather uncomfortable doing it, or at least disinterested. I just wonder if Nimoy had an original concept but lost his way, or his passion for the subject, along the way. IOW, he has the germ of a good idea but apparently not the talent or patience or thoughtfulness to carry it through.
    I, too, would like to see how a woman photographer would approach this subject. [When I was involved in a photo gallery, I got really tired of all the male photographers bringing in shots of naked ladies at the beach, naked ladies on a rock, naked ladies by a tree, etc., etc. We finally had a male nude competition and women all over the world responded with great enthusiasm!]
    However, I’m not sure Liebowitz would be the one to do it, although her work is always interesting. Another take on this subject by a woman can be seen at
    http://www.glbtq.com/slideshows/edisonltslides.html
    As for the ‘fat people’ discussion above, probably several of us could write a dissertation on the subject; however, not here. I will say that Queen Latifah is but one example of a woman who has owned and proudly worked with the body she was given. Two more come immediately to mind: Conchatta Ferrell and Kathy Bates. And yes, as one ages it becomes much more difficult to shed those unwanted pounds. I note that most of these models are not exactly in the shine of youthfulness.
    PS: I love Nimoy’s expression: serious to the point of being dour.

  • tina

    Margaret, the Venus of Villendorf (if it is a venus, we don’t know what it is…it’s prehistoric), and a few backwater tribes in the jungles of Africa who deliberately fatten women are the exceptions…not the rule. Yet they are trotted out like they have defined beauty for the ages whenever this issue comes up.
    Look at classical or even ancient sculpture (like the “Dancing Girl” of Moehenjodaro), and also look at definitions of attractiveness in most mainstream societies over the centuries….that kind of obesity has never truly been a significant cultural norm. Sorry to say the most universal trait that is considered beautiful is youth, as in, teenagers. As the baby boomers age we now see a huge media blitz about how older women were ALWAYS “sexier” than their younger counterparts. We’re Maude! We’re like female cougars! We’re Empress Theodora and Catherine the Great! Yeah, right. Who am I to spoil the party? Carry on, please, only be careful when you take those pole dancing classes, the hips of senior citizens break easily.
    What lies we sell ourselves whenever we want to feel “empowered”. Is that really okay? I don’t know. I somehow doubt it.
    Back to the pictures. True enough that the Boccaccios, etc., “classical” beauties in art are not thin like today’s professional living clothes hangars are thin, but c’mon, where are we at if we think all women bigger than Twiggy are in the same category as the ladies in Nimoy’s pictures? We’re more poisoned by the “thin is in” creed than we’d like to admit if this is the case!
    Fetish photography is all I see here. I think Cactus did a good job of pointing out why and as per the technical aspect.
    Health issues are not really separate from sex issues; men will be quick to say they don’t want a “rack of antlers” either. Good health, I’m afraid, is attractive–it shows in the skin, the hair, the eyes, and this is a bigger turn on than someone who is visibly sick, that’s just logic.
    If I had a dime for every time I’ve seen three hundred and four hundred pound women come on a talk show and say “But men in other countries would think we were sexy!” (there are never any men from other countries sitting there saying so!) and talk about that little clay statue with the big ‘ole udders, I’d be able to afford Oprah’s personal trainer. The Villendorf trinket and some seriously inflated cultural relativity, it’s all they’ve got.
    If they want to keep that weight it’s their business and if they are truly happy and confident and fulfilled that way, then fine, but I think it’s crystal clear that they really aren’t, they are fighting for outward confirmation because they think it will help with what they feel inside. That’s my only point.
    Like I said I think it’s our popular stereotype of what fat people are like with their clothes on that is truly damaging. They are much more likely than other people to be poor, by the way, in contrast to Samantha’s assertion. As for being a “symbol of motherhood”…since when? B.C.?
    I really think that we are facing this because men and women alike are fattened like hogs on corn-based cheap foods (corn is the most fattening thing on the planet, and even vegetable soup has corn syrup in it these days–corn based “everything” is also unique to America, which might explain a lot). Rather than deal with that, the obese want everyone to accept their sick, damaged bodies as the new ideal. I’m not buying. Why would I shave twenty years off my life by gaining that kind of weight? And spending the years I do have as a crippled diabetic? It’s as bad as smoking or being an alcoholic.
    The generation that is aging now is, for the first time, going to have a shorter lifespan than the generation that came before. Why? That’s right, because they are fat.
    Not too sexy. Mr. Nimoy needs to explore these bodies differently. Like the other posters have said, we need something a little original. It’s such a complicated issue. We don’t need more fat-phobia but we don’t need more fat-positivity either, I”m not talking about women who weigh 170 pounds when they should weigh 130, but the morbidly obese.

  • joan of art

    Who knew that some mediocre photographs (they don’t even come close to the aesthetic level of Mapplethorpe) of obese women could bring out every neurotic judgment, insecurity, prejudice, misconception, fallacy, and hyperbolic stereotype to be found in women’s magazines or on brain-dead daytime talk shows?
    tina: the fatties are in teddies . . . A bevy of females with hanging folds that look like plates of rhinocerous hide . . . backwater tribes in the jungles of Africa . . . big ‘ole udders . . . WTF? Your rant is harder to deal with than Leonard Nimoy’s questionable talent.

  • Samantha

    I agree, Cactus, it comes off as half an idea, and it doesn’t completely work as a series. I found Edison’s collection less amaturish, but here again I didn’t like some of the setups. My favorite of Edison’s is the photo of two women on opposite sides of the couch. And once again it works because they’re not distracted by the camera, and have a moment of feeling their own self worth. It’s also a great shot, with great lighting, and I love the fact that they’re not on the floor or stranded on some rocks.
    Tina, I don’t think this is about health or preference. No one is saying gain weight. But it is about reality and acceptance. Edison said these women are “entitled to visibility” and I have to agree.
    The quote under the pic I mentioned is below:
    “How much room does a woman deserve to take up?”
    “As much as she wants.”

  • Montague

    Tina, leaving aside your nasty way of putting things, to suggest that obesity is as bad as alcoholism is just plain stupid. My grandmother was a fat old thing. Faaaaaaat. I never remember her anything but fat. I’ve even seen photos from before my father was born, and she wasn’t AS fat, but she was portly even in her 20s. Well, guess what. She never got diabetes. She died in her sleep just shy of her 102nd birthday. She did have a hip replaced once, but even scrawny old folks have that done.
    Now there’s my mom. Slender all her life. In her 70s now. Started drinking around 40. At this point I’ve come to believe she is incapable of being rehabbed. We’ve gone through a lot with her. She does have diabetes, by the way. Which she controls through food, not insulin. Unlike Grandma, Mom has been arrested four times – twice for OWI and twice for public intox and theft (she gets embarrassed always buying booze so she apparently tries to sneak it out in her purse sometimes). She has been in jail. Four times. She has had her driver license suspended twice. Thank goodness she never harmed anyone while driving under the influence. Because of the alcoholism, she has been to the ER several times in the last two years.
    Having seen these two women, I’d rather get fat than become an alcoholic. Grandma never got pulled over for driving while fat. Being fat didn’t make her a danger to anyone else. Something else to consider – a person can live without alcohol or tobacco. But not without food. You can’t go cold turkey to kick the habit.
    You need to stop and think why you are so nasty towards other people. I don’t think the women in Nimoy’s photos want the world to think their bodies are ideal. They just want people to stop despising them based on looks.

  • mugatea

    To boldly go where no man has gone before.
    Nimoy rocks

  • tina

    Montague, you are generally correct, except that in terms of what it does to your own health, overeating takes a toll on your body as severe as other self-destructive habits, including, I might add, bulimia or anorexia. I’m not suggesting that obese people are in the mentally altered state of drunks and therefore a danger on the roads, etc. But you also do need to admit that your grandmother was an off-the-charts exception. We all know a pack-a-day smoker who lived into his ’90s, as well, or at least every smoker seems to know one. That doesn’t mean the health risks are not there, and it doesn’t mean that smoking won’t kill you.
    What’s eating Joan of Art? For those who think obesity has no impact on self or others, that it’s all about positive vs. negative viewpoints, the old Gilbert Grape movie will dispel that notion.
    Samantha’s quote of Edison is correct. It is the quality of the visibility I am thinking about. I think the simple eroticization of obesity is shallow and that’s what I see in the pictures and I cannot see much else, except perhaps in the one where the woman is lying on her side facing away from the camera. There’s a little complexity there, but not too much, as others have noted the photo series just does not go far enough in its main idea.
    I am sorry if I came across as “nasty” but I don’t see why I should struggle to frame the discussion a certain way when I see it differently.
    For those who insist it “isn’t about health or preference”, I completely disagree, these pictures would attract no attention whatever if not for the physical condition of the women in them, whether we gawk or wonder. Since the photos appear to be yet another in a long line of recent attempts to eroticize and normalize this physical condition, I think the subject should be open to discussion.

  • ummabdulla

    Mugatea, your post reminded me of an album my brother used to have of just awful covers of famous songs. I don’t remember if there was one by Leonard Nimoy, but our favorite – I can still remember it – was William Shatner (Captain Kirk of Star Trek) singing (well, “singing” doesn’t exactly describe what he does with it…) “Mr. Tambourine Man” (otherwise sung by Bob Dylan.) Here it is online.
    As for the photos, I didn’t look at them. But I think it’s sad that when these women are trying to come up with ways to empower themselves, they decide on taking their clothes off for a photographer.
    Reading the comments also reminded me of other women who were comfortable in their large bodies, although these were a while ago. There was Ricki Lake’s character in “Hairspray”. And I remember seeing a couple of movies with one German actress named Marianne Sägebrecht, including “Bagdad Cafe” and “Sugarbaby” (Zuckerbaby). That was a long time ago, so I don’t remember the details, but “Bagdad Cafe” did have Jack Palance as an artist who painted her with less and less clothing – hmmmm… some similarities with Nimoy? Aging has-been actors, for one thing.

  • joan of art

    I am sorry if I came across as “nasty” but I don’t see why I should struggle to frame the discussion a certain way when I see it differently.
    tina, the problem with your breathless rant is that it’s all about you and your prejudices (the expression of which is “nasty” because your prejudices are tightly wrapped in a moralistic judgmentalness, as most people’s prejudices are). You’re not really discussing (other) women’s body-image issues, health risks caused by obesity, or the social pressures on women to conform to a rather narrow sexual ideal (as I wish you were). You are certainly not talking about the actual photographs or Leonard Nimoy’s intent or the New York Times article.
    That said, I have to give Leonard Nimoy credit for sending you into orbit. Nimoy is not a great technician and his vision is hokey. Like Robert Mapplethorpe, however, he is re-casting traditional visual imagery with a different form and subject matter. Mapplethorpe chose classical art (which is why his technical quality is so obsessive); Nimoy has chosen Modern art. (Laurie Toby Edison, referenced above by Cactus, is working on women’s body-image and self-acceptance issues.)
    What’s interesting to me about Nimoy’s photographs is that he is respectful of these women. The reason I say that is because while the women are “grossly” overweight, he doesn’t make them look “gross.” I find myself looking at their bodies as textural landscapes, which takes me by surprise. (And I don’t think that dehumanizes the women, btw, I think it makes me really look at them, which in turn makes for a more intimate connection to them.) So while I don’t think Nimoy is a great artist, I do think he’s successful at getting me (and others) to react to his work. Reaction from an audience is one measure of successful art. But like tina, Nimoy mixes some other things in there too (like false eyelashes and high heels), which makes talking about his work a little confused.

  • Montague

    Tina, the subject can be open to reasonable discussion amongst people who don’t refer to “plates of rhinoceros hide” to describe these women. Of course obesity is bad for your health. Do you think these women don’t know it? Do you also discuss the problem of alcoholism by talking about “drunken sots”? It isn’t helpful.
    I’d love for my mother to get sober. She had a great career, did incredible things, was smart… and now she’s in the grip of something that is stealing her mind. She appears to have irreversible dementia. Her physical and mental health are suffering. Being overweight is tough on the body. But the only part of being fat that’s really tough on the mind, from what I can tell, is knowing that people are judging you for your appearance. As was expressed in Gilbert Grape.

  • noen

    Joan of art nails it. I followed the link and frankly, they look contrived to me, at least some of them are directly quoting other more famous works of art. That’s fine in private but one should not display them in public. I have lots of drawings and sketches I have drawn from the works of old masters. They are a great learning tool but I’d never put them up in a gallery. That’s why I don’t think Nimoy has really thought through just what it is that he wants to accomplish here. Better artists than Leonard have tackled this subject, to far greater success.
    There is another point that was raised, the Times’ strategic placement of Leonard Nimoy’s head. I for one am really tired of living in a childish culture that simply cannot handle nudity at all. Yet gets thoroughly aroused by the wanton violence that saturates virtually all of our media. See the previous thread for a prime example. Our culture, if you can even call it that, is sick. Very sick.

  • tina

    Joan of Art, when did I mention myself, so how do you say it is all about me? And who are you to tell me what I’m “really” talking about?
    Well there is not much to say if you have decided I have a hidden agenda. And I think it’s you who have launched into orbit. Nimoy=Mapplethorpe? Puh-leeze.
    Also, I had a grandfather who I wouldn’t hesitate to call a drunken sot. He ruined a great many lives to no purpose. Why not call him what he was?
    We have become so fixated on the psychology of addiction that we seem to have forgotten that people are capable of free will and make choices. Women who steal money to buy shoes have an addiction. Old folks who go bankrupt on the slot machines have an addiction. Yes, they do, I don’t dispute that. But every morning they wake up and decide to start it again. They first thing any counselor/physician will tell you is that they have to want to stop.
    I have what is defined as an “addictive personality”; I could get hooked on cough syrup without too much effort. Ergo I *attempt* to make wise choices, because these days I am responsible for the welfare of other people. I am well aware that people, including myself, are weak and make bad choices, but I don’t have to admire the bad choices (including my own)…..
    I am just asking why, when the “addiction” to eating yourself to death comes into the picture, all of a sudden we are supposed to rewrite the whole script and validate the destructive choice? Why do we have to find endless words of praise for obese women, call them mother goddesses and all the rest of it, when what they’ve got is a medical condition that will cost them their lives? Not to mention the lives of their infants (obesity being a leading cause of premature birth)? It’s an interesting question, no?
    Germans are the fattest Europeans, but nothing to touch the Americans either in terms of the weights of individuals (those 400 pounders are almost unique to America) or the percentage of obese people (Britain, BTW, has the highest rate of child obesity). They would look askance at this whole dialogue. They would find it literally insane. To them a severely overweight person has a preventable sickness. They would not see any point in trying to normalize that! They would also not, I suspect, find anything more in Nimoy’s pictures than something with curiosity value, a la a circus sideshow.
    But “circus sideshow” seems to sum up the whole American experience these days…..

  • mugatea

    Ummabdulla, Shatner is so nutty. He can chew up a song like no other.

  • noen

    “when did I mention myself, so how do you say it is all about me?”
    With every breath, every word, you scream it. That is what an “addictive personality” is hun.
    “They would not see any point in trying to normalize that!”
    And that is the crux of it for you isn’t it Tina? Heaven forbid that anyone call you on your self-hating pity party. You wallow in it. How else can you convince yourself that “I’ll have just one more…” if you can’t beat yourself up afterwards? And now that you are “responsible for the welfare of other[s]” the fun is only bound to intensify. You set yourself up to fail, then you fail, which only sets you up for yet another round. It’s the whole point. Typical addict.
    What Leonard is trying to do is he is asking that people drop their prejudices and stereotypes and take a look at these women as they are. But you can’t do that because that would mean looking at and owning your own shit. He doesn’t succeed in his objective very well and others have done it better, but I give him credit for at least trying.
    99% of the time when people look at a work of art and react violently to it, it is because they have not seen the work at all. It has been transformed in their imagination into a mirror in which they see their own hideous reflection. They see themselves as others do. Sometimes art can do that. But they mistake their own inner self that they have projected onto the art for the artwork itself and then recoil in horror. They react violently because their inner demons have been exposed for all the world to see.

  • Montague

    How perfect are you, Tina? So much so that it’s fine for you to call people drunken sots and other lovely things, because you have no concern that someone might be stereotyping you as a self-centered and nasty individual? Your grandfather may have been a drunken sot, but alcoholism is a medical disease. My mother is coming close to ruining some lives right now, not merely her own, that is, yet twenty years ago she founded a network of two dozen community health clinics where there had been nothing. Those clinics thrive today and continue to serve middle-class and poor people. I’d be willing to bet your grandfather has some redeeming qualities as well.
    You appear to like to think that alcoholics and obese people have their troubles due to a lack of self-control. Well, maybe. And maybe that’s not the whole story. You might want to stop being so judgmental.

  • ummabdulla

    Warning – off-topic…
    LOL! Thanks for the laugh, mugatea – I’ll have to send that link to my brother. Do you think Shatner actually took that seriously? Is it possible that so many people were involved in producing that, and no one stood up to say how horrible it was? Is it possible that they could even keep a straight face? I still can’t stop laughing…

  • mugatea

    Warning – off-topic…
    I agree, or do I? The body of creative work of Nimoy and Shatner is helpful in attempting to understand the background of Nimoy, the photographer. Plus, it’s fun and funny.
    There must have been a gas leak on the Enterprise, or something … in that song, Shatner does make reference to the wacky tabacc-ee … + Nimoy’s living room looked like it could have had a lava-lamp in it.

  • weisseharre

    b(r)u(I)tyNth’Ighsuvb(r)easts

  • http://www.bugseyes.blogspot.com tardigrade

    Isn’t this fun!
    I find it interesting that women are the most focused upon subjects of art and icons… Anyone study anthropology? Weight on a person means they eat. Skinny means they are not successful and are sick. Read ‘A Tortoise For The Queen of Tonga’ by Julia Whitty….
    But my favorite image from Nimoy’s fat ladies is the one where they are dancing in a circle and not trying to be sexy. It’s about humanity, guys!
    The best image Nimoy created, I think, was the ‘Blurry’ image of a thin lady. You can still see her ribs, by the way.
    As for heft and nudity, anyone here do life drawing? Heavy ladies and men are easier to draw because of their curves. Skinny models their skin, no matter how thin, does not ‘hang’ pleasantly. Ruben understood this.
    I remember leaving a wonderful session of life drawing for lunch (life drawing takes hours to do right and models skilled and strong enough to hold difficult poses) and a new student came rushing out of the studio. I asked if he was alright and he said, “That woman is NUDE!!! I have NEVER been SO humiliated in my life!!! THAT’S DISGUSTING!!”
    I knew right there he was a novice at art… Life is disgusting but beautiful!!!
    Nimoy’s images are a start. He needs more practice… the big models needed softer lighting to capture their curves. The thin models are reproductions of other photographers… It is damn hard to be unique and show NEW views of nature.

  • tina

    Noen, Of the two of us, I have not been calling you names and hurling a lot of insulting speculations at you (I am not, by the way, either overweight or an addict as you imply). So which one of us has the problem, really? I think you didn’t get my point at all.
    Montague, I am not worried about how others might be “stereotyping” me, it reflects on their own issues and not on mine, thanks very much.

  • Montague

    Tina sez: “I am not worried about how others might be “stereotyping” me, it reflects on their own issues and not on mine, thanks very much.”
    Well, I should hope not, given that the way you stereotype others reflects on YOUR own issues.

  • tina

    Montague, I think you (and others) have not been reading my posts; any failure to praise obesity in women falls under the category of “stereotyping”, as far as some of the posters are concerned.
    I am asking only WHY the agressive “selling” of pathological obesity as a “new normal” and as a beauty standard. Is it merely because so many of us ARE obese that we might as well start promoting it, or is it something worse…that we CANNOT, as a society, look at women unless they are debilitated in some way; consumptives, corseted ‘Gibson Girls’, anorexics, the ‘drug chic’ look, and now obese women? Why oh why is it such a friggin’ SIN to look at a woman of average height who weighs, oh, 150 pounds? Yet this is exactly the kind of woman we almost never see.
    We are frightened of women, we have to “disable” them under the gaze of the camera, and this I understand to be the next chapter of that.
    This might be because of Nimoy’s failure of vision, or a lack of imagination in the pictures, or something…I don’t really know; the article cites a viewer as saying, she is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 135 pounds, YET she is “jealous” of these heavy women–this is very weird, no? Our body hatred is most intense the more average and healthy we are–it’s this that I am reacting to. Sorry if some people don’t get that.

  • Cactus

    People, granted the disgust that tina has for these (and all) obese people is leaking out of the sides of her arguments, but she is making some valid points. Do any of us really believe that a slender woman would look at these photos with envy? That has to come under the “don’t believe everything you read” category. Once as an experiment, I categorized every woman coming and going from a decor accessory store, as too skinny, too fat, or ‘normal.’ There were about equal too skinny & too fat. The ‘normal’ were few. I don’t know what to make of that except that there is definitely an issue here.
    There are so many physical factors to consider, such as the set point (which apparently cannot be changed), the fact that one’s propensity to obesity is set within the first 2 years, the prevalence of ‘fast food’ which is high in fat & salt and a generally aging population which is less active. Instead of a balanced meal in school cafeterias, they now have McDonalds or pizza and sodas. Everyday????
    Then there are a myriad of psychological factors. People stuff their loneliness or frustration or anger or anxiety or fear. And today, when we see our country being destroyed, one wonders what toll that is taking. Is there some survival mechanism telling us to eat all we can because our next meal could be a long time coming? Are we now seeing a turning away from the drug-chic skeletons for fear of becoming one of them and towards the obese as a way of survival? The collapse of this country is something no one talks about but everyone thinks about….perhaps subconsciously.

  • http://monoceros.furmont.net/ Ernest Tomlinson

    “when did I mention myself, so how do you say it is all about me?”
    With every breath, every word, you scream it. That is what an “addictive personality” is hun.

    You forgot to add, “Anyway, who cares what you actually said. Calling you self-centred and sick is less work and more fun.”
    I notice, for example, that Tina’s point about the Villendorf Venus and similar art, how it has been exceptional and not typical, vanished without a trace after she brought it up.

  • joan of art

    I notice, for example, that Tina’s point about the Villendorf Venus and similar art, how it has been exceptional and not typical, vanished without a trace after she brought it up.
    Maybe that’s because tina’s assumption is wrong.
    Not to mention, it’s Willendorf.

  • Cactus

    The fact that the “Willendorf Venus” and other such female fertility icons are rare merely serves to inform the obsession of the male leaders of the succeeding religions to destroy any and all representations of the former religion. As we just witnessed a few years ago the destruction of the Buddhas in Afghanistan by the taliban.
    There have been several mentions of Mapplethorpe in connection with Nimoy’s work. Frankly, I see little connection. Mapplethorp was a genius who not only crossed the line but gleefuly jumped over it with all his passion and considerable humor. That is why we are still talking about him. That is why people with authoritarian personalities cannot stand him and attempt to shut down any exhibits of his work. And that is a courage I do not see in Nimoy’s work.

  • tina

    Joan of Art—actually not….you can hold up any one piece of art and wave it around to try and prove your point. Proves nothing. I would posit that the Venus de Milo is a more typical example of ancient beauty standards than the Venus of Villendorf (you can spell it withe a “W” if you like, but in German it would be pronounced as “V”).
    Just for a fun exercise…one of Nimoy’s photos is a “remake” of the iconic painting “The Three Graces”. Google up a picture of the original famous picture and visualize it next to Nimoy’s picture. Nimoy’s Three Graces–Original Three Graces. Nimoy’s–Original. Once again. Get it now?
    What’s interesting in the present is that we have no Venus de Milos. We don’t even give female athletes, who have healthy, fit bodies, anywhere near the visibility of their male counterparts. The exception might be women figure skaters, who are very feminine for sports figures. Our heroes are the celebrity scarecrows, actrsses and models. When we look for alternatives, what do we get…not Venus de Milo but Nimoy’s models. We get asked to create a fictional, nostalgia of some supposed former time when you weren’t just accepted as being fat but worshipped for it….I am sorry the evidence does not support this.
    Wishing something doesn’t make it so. If you are going to make assertions, you have top present all the evidence…ancient Hindu art which shows women as slender, ancient Egyptian tomb paintings which show their beauties as slender, the Roman ideal, and on and on…again the most attractive thing over the ages has been youth and good health, and of course booty and boobs have always been as popular as they are now :)
    Cactus, I don’t deny the existence of pre-Christian godesses and even fertility cults in Europe, although I think this is really much overhyped….most Europeans worshipped imported Roman gods by the time any significant history started being written about the place…but even supposing the figure is a fertility amulet, do we have to say that she was a model of beauty as well? Maybe she served one purpose without serving the other? hmmmm….
    Anyway, again I ask, why the emphasis on debilitating extremes, no emphasis on health and strength and so on—only weirdness, freakiness, the scarier and more bizaare the better, be it models fainting on the catwalk or Oprah pulling out a child’s wagon with all her former fat piled up on it—let’s face it, we think women no matter what they weigh are UGLY and we are only comfortable when portraying them as such. Even we pretend to be calling them beautiful , the message is you are UGLY–hence a 5 foot 5 inch 135 pound women feeling “jealous” of any woman at all who can even bear to be photographed.
    If history is any guide, this will go on and on…no cheerful moral to this story.

  • joan of art

    Cactus, who has equated Mapplethorpe and Nimoy (besides tina, who misread me)? I certainly didn’t call them equals.
    Also, where do you read that fertility icons are rare? Everything I’ve read says they are not rare (relatively speaking, considering they are really old). And, they are really, really important in the history of human artifacts, no matter that they pre-date tina’s personal preference for the more modern (and more modest, I might add) Venus de Milo.

  • joan of art

    tina, you keep making sweeping generalizations based on a very restricted perspective. I think it all depends on what you spend time looking at. If you spend all your free time looking at the TV or reading women’s self-help or fashion magazines, then yes, you would think the world is extremely distorted. Those media are used to manipulate your emotions (even to make you feel bad about yourself) in order to sell you a product. Period.
    If you move outside those narrow visual choices, you can see other visual choices. You don’t even need to leave the U.S. Many contemporary American artists, male and female, critique and comment on the tyranny of this limited (and damaging) social perspective in their work.
    Leonard Nimoy is obviously conscious of his permanent pop-icon status, despite his real interest in fine art, and he accepts it (by freely giving the Vulcan salute). In his own way, he seems to be using his pop-culture status to critique pop culture norms, no? Critiquing is different than promoting. But obsessing about whether or not a slender woman would be genuinely jealous of an obese woman is . . . obsessive. The woman in the article says she’s jealous of the freedom the models express. What’s actually wrong with that?

  • tina

    …it all depends on what you spend time looking at. If you spend all your free time looking at the TV or reading women’s self-help or fashion magazines, then yes, you would think the world is extremely distorted.
    um….well, doesn’t that pretty much describe the average woman’s media consumption habits to a “t”? Fully 48% of Americans report that they ONLY watch the TV, they never buy any reading material at all. 49% only buy pulp novels and pop magazines (that’s half the population whose experience of women in books is Harlequin Romances and the rapist/murderer fantasies of Dean Koontz. Fun!). Only 3% of Americans are literary readers, and I imagine a similar number are patrons of the fine arts and would be the people I assume you are referring to when you talk about those who “move outside these narrow visual choices”. For the figures above I reference a yearly reading habits survey, I am really sorry but I do not remember what literacy organization does it. I’ll post a link if I can remember. I do remember the figures very clearly, because it made a total of 97% of Americans who don’t read “serious” books in any genre. I guess that’s why authors can get on bestseller lists with less than 10,000 copies sold. It’s a scary world for writers…but I digress…
    In other words, you pretty much nailed it. If the average woman is going to move outside the extremely distorted range of visual choices, she is going to have to experience them in the popular media.
    Oh, and isn’t the Venus de Milo also, well, pretty much butt nekkid? :)
    John Ashcroft better use his influence to cover that naughtiness up right away….. {:>0

  • http://profile.typekey.com/Riggsveda/ Riggsveda

    What a fascinating thread. Personally, I liked the series.

  • ice weasel
  • ummabdulla

    Tina: “Fully 48% of Americans report that they ONLY watch the TV, they never buy any reading material at all…”
    Wow… I would like to see a link to that information, if you can find it. (Normallly I would go searching myself, but I don’t have time now.)

  • tina

    Ummabdullah–I will redouble my searching….I read the survey in the library on old fashioned paper, so am not sure how to google it up, since I can’t remember the name….anyway I’ll be at the library again next week.
    Ice Weasel…Meme Roth’s comments about Jordin on American Idol were just shameful. I think this is something all the posters can agree on.

  • Samantha

    Believe it or not, Tina’s posts are beginning to make sense to me.
    That’s art for you, I guess, it provokes all kinds of responses, and certainly I was surprised at Tina’s. I thought she was reading too much into the photos and personalizing it. But, I see her undeniable point:
    …”that we CANNOT, as a society, look at women unless they are debilitated in some way.”
    That’s true. Which I suppose connects to the concept of power, of the reluctance to give up power to women. We flock to stories of women who are boozy, anorexic, or too fat to get out of bed, too selfish to marry (runaway bride), unstable (drowning all their children), or uncontrolably jealous (diaper-wearing astronauts).
    It’s no wonder that when females are judged for powerful positions (hillary) they are viewed through this strange prism. They have to somehow prove they normal, while pop culture whispers in our ears that they are not.
    Did Nemoy drift to a secret comfort zone in his mind with these photos, exhibiting yet more disabled women for our consumption? I don’t know. That’s possible, I suppose. Maybe there’s evidence of it too, with the makeup and stuff.
    However, I still see the art. And I see freedom of expression and some degree of empowerment. He’s forcing us to see something we wouldn’t ordinarily want to see. And when we do, we see it in a new way. I know that I’ve gained something from these photos. And you do come away with respect for the women.
    As far as message, yes, there should be a message saying loud and clear, don’t eat yourself out of depression, and don’t stuff McDonalds when you can respect your body instead, even when the world doesn’t. You deserve more.
    Yet, another message has to be, YOU DEFINE YOURSELF. No one else defines you. The women in the photos (barely successfully) are defining themselves, and they don’t at this moment choose to hide their bodies with dark swaths of cloths for your benefit. “We’re fat, we’re here,..deal.”

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