Make a collage representative of your body’s story – its beauty, strength, weaknesses, difficulties, etc.
Materials used: Glue stick, magazine cut-outs, paper, scissors
The viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to a bird with its wings outstretched. On the bird is pasted the last two lines of a poem by Donna Doyle. Here are the correct line breaks:
“He looks at me the way birds do,
as if I am the one fallen.”
I had kept that image and poem together in a shoebox to use as art for a while, but I never thought of using the two together. The poem is actually a poem about love, loss, letting go. At least, it is to me. But the last two lines of it chilled me. When I read them, I think of my ex, and of all the people who have underestimated and undervalued me.
The image of the bird is one of both desperate fear and desperate hope. It is flying away from something. It is attempting to escape.
The border of the collage is composed of words. The bottom says:
“If you were asked to surrender your will/glass/exploited/she’ll love.”
The left-hand side says:
“Escape them all/and win praises/Wide, wider, & widest.”
The right-hand side says:
“I am scared/that ‘well-being’ feeling/Shades of Grief/For Him.”
I had actually cut out a lot of words about beauty, skin, stress, health, calories, etc. But when I was done with the collage, I still had plenty of those words left over. The words I chose to paste into the collage made sense to me. Because the pain is not in the calories, the food, the work-out routine, the picking, or the restricting behavior itself. It is in pain; feeling exploited, feeling as if I am taking up too much space, feeling as if I have no free will, feeling grief.
The middle of the collage pictures an iceberg or some snowy, frozen peak. On top of that backdrop I’ve pasted a woman and her daughter, spaced far apart. The daughter seems to be looking hopefully up at the mother. There is a disembodied eye and a sort of floating smile. The word “SMART,” with a cheese-grater forming the “A,” looks over the mother and daughter. Smart, because the mother makes “smart” choices for the daughter. But I like words that have dual meanings. “To smart” can also mean to cause pain. A fork and knife flank this scene. On one side is a cornucopia of fruit. On the other, a fridge full of healthy food.
Above the fridge is a disembodied woman. One leg says, “Your Best.” The other says, “Perfect.” Across her stomach are the words “Pack it, roll it, crush it.” She lifts a finger to her mouth, signifying secrecy, silence. Don’t tell anyone what you actually do to yourself. Don’t say a word.
Above the cornucopia are two mirrors. One mirror features the word “Self.”
Around the bird, near the top of the collage: two bees, a butterfly, two bouquets of flowers. They are the true emblems of beauty and hope. A measuring guide with the outline of several womens’ bodies holding hands. In the corner, a pair of disembodied eyes.
It strikes me how pretty the collage looks; how hopeful, colorful, abundant. Very similar to my other piece. But if one reads the words, it’s a completely different story. I think this says something about how things or people can appear, versus how they actually are.
The only individuals pictured whole in this piece are the mother and daughter. Everyone else has been cut into various body parts; mainly eyes and lips. The lips smile, but they do not speak. The eyes can only gesture. Secrecy, quiet, shame, guilt, fear. Dumbing it down.
While making the collage, it hit me really hard that my issues have never stemmed from my skin. They have always, always stemmed from my body and the way it has been treated, from the time I was a child and attempting to differentiate “good food” from “bad food,” to the time when I was abused, to now. My body’s story is one of loss, grief, and covert explotation.
“He looks at me the way birds do, as if I am the one fallen.” I think that quote being there is a quiet acknowledgement that I am not yet fallen – it is certain people I have loved who have fallen, who have grown so accustomed to the habits, rituals, and violence they’ve experienced that they feel as if they have the right to pass it down to me. As if they are saying, “Here, take this. Burden yourself with it. Carry it on your back. May you never fly again.”
All my love.