SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — The ideal body image, worshipped by the corporate world and presented to the American public by the media, defines an unrealistic picture of beauty and success, according to artist Larry Kirkwood. Kirkwood hopes to debunk that image with his exhibit and lecture titled “The Body Image Project: Beauty as a Relative Concept,” which will be held at Wittenberg University Monday-Wednesday, Feb. 13-15.
According to Kirkwood, The Body Image Project, which he began in 1993, uses art to show what human beings really look like. The exhibit includes finished casts taken directly from a person's body and strives to present a more honest and healthy view of the human body.
The goal is to change the way we look at ourselves and the way we perceive others,” Kirkwood said. “It affirms the fact that the way we look physically is ‘okay.’ If change needs to occur, it is from the inside out and not the reverse.”
A collection of the casts will be on exhibit for the public from 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, Feb. 13-14, and 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15, in the Alumni Room of the Benham-Pence Student Center. Kirkwood will visit several classes in art, sociology and communication. In addition, the student organization, Concerned Black Students, invites the public to a lecture at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15, in Bayley Auditorium, Barbara Deer Kuss Science Center.
On Monday, Assistant Professor of Art Scott Dooley and students in his three-dimensional design class will watch as Kirkwood makes a cast of Jansen Wehrley, class of 2007 from Medina, Ohio. After the demonstration, art students will join Kirkwood at the exhibit for a gallery talk and discussion about the technical aspects of the procedure.
On Valentine’s Day, dubbed by Wittenberg students as “Love Your Body Day,” the artist will visit sociology and communication classes. Assistant Professor of Sociology Beckett Broh will prepare her Race and Ethnicity class by examining media images and the messages they send regarding beauty and success.
“Most people, particularly women, don’t meet the unrealistic standards of beauty and success represented in the media,” Broh said, adding that racial and ethnic groups are under-represented.
In the department of communication, Adjunct Instructor Kristina Medford will prepare her Interpersonal Influence class by discussing the gallery images in the context of the class.
"We have focused quite a bit on the role of ethics in the influence process thus far in our class,” Medford said. “There are many examples of how groups or individuals use unethical means in their influence attempts, but Kirkwood's work offers us one example of a refreshing, ethical alternative."
Sponsored by the Womyn’s Center, Kirkwood’s visit was made possible thanks to the efforts of Riley Stoermer, class of 2008 from Springfield, Ohio, who proposed the visit to Director of Multicultural Student Programs and the Womyn’s Center Forest Wortham after she spoke with Kirkwood. Stoermer said the center was looking for a theme for its part in Black History Month programming, and she felt the project addressed many issues that would engage a variety of interests on campus.
“Larry related his theme to so many topics including body image, racism, abuse, sexism, alcoholism and self-esteem, and offered unique visual evidence of his concepts,” Stoermer said.
“We look forward to having him share his experiences with us.”
- Phyllis Eberts