Art Saves Lives International love The Body Journey Project and all it stands for. So we were eager to include it in our E- magazine for our “celebration of women” issue, this project designed by Miriam Ross is empowering, engaging, educational and it allows women to express and communicate through art. So we decided to find out more and interviewed Miriam to get the low down on this amazing aim:
Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from, your art background?
“I am a multidisciplinary visual artist. Being an artist has always been a strong part of my identity. I grew up in the hills of Berkshire County in western Massachusetts. I studied at Clark University, where I received a BA in Studio Art, and the Siena Art Institute, in Siena, Italy. Last year I was an artist-in-residence at the Contemporary Art Center at Woodside in Troy, New York and this spring, I am living at the artist residency Sucre y Sol in Barcelona, Spain.”
What motivated you to deal with the subject of women and body image in your project?
“Our world is hyper-aware of the female body. Women are profoundly burdened by the deep-rooted notion that they are constantly being looked at. This inherently affects our body image and self-perception. We are so worried about our bodies that we become hyper-aware of ourselves, constantly comparing, hiding, changing, and altering whatever we can. We are generally so hard on our bodies, when we should be treating them with respect, care, and kindness. Our bodies carry us through the journey of life!
The Body Journey sheds light on this emotional and physical journey that women undertake by inhabiting a body. The project provides the support and tools for women that are needed to create an honest visual representation of their bodies, no matter how they feel about themselves. It’s like the all-encompassing self-portrait. We are gaining—or regaining—awareness and ownership of our bodies through art.”
Tell us why you chose this mission?
“I created The Body Journey because I want women to have an artistic forum to express their experiences and perceptions of their bodies. Every woman’s journey is an important, precious and unique story. By sharing these stories, we are helping to educate the world about the female psyche and experience.”
Why have you chosen the medium you use for your project?
“Each participant is provided with a template to draw on, which shows three basic outlines of a female form. I ask women to use a red pen for this project because red is such a powerful color. By “taking the red pen” to the page, we are asserting ownership over our bodies!”
What is your process when connecting and engaging people?
“My approach to human connection and engagement is to be accessible, realistic and vulnerable. I admire the quote by humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers who wrote:
“What is most personal is most general.” The more personal we can be in our relationships, the more souls we will connect to and touch deeply.”
Who are you influenced by? What inspired you and your mission?
“This mission was fuelled by my frustration with body image in our society. So many of us have our minds wrapped around this idea of “the ‘perfect’ body.” All of the pain, all of the worries and concerns and changes people make to come closer to that unreachable satisfaction.
“Our Bodies, Ourselves” is a book that began developing in 1969, by a group of women who wanted to share personal stories about their lives and bodies and experiences with doctors. The women’s movement was gaining momentum, and this book was a revolutionary product of the time. It is most powerful because it promoted the idea of women taking full ownership of their bodies.
Eve Ensler’s eye-opening and compelling play, “The Vagina Monologues” shares similar themes with The Body Journey, in that she gathered personal stories from several hundred women, which she then used to create an amazing play and later, a continuously grown, global movement.”
What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself and your project to be feminist?
“Feminism is the movement that works toward equality amongst men and women in every facet of our society. In addition to this, I see feminism as a movement that supports the autonomy and independence of women. Feminism supports women as they assert ownership over their life choices, and ownership over their bodies. Knowing that women are looked at through the lens of the generally overbearing male psyche, we need to know more about the female experience as we move forward with the feminist movement. I proudly call myself a feminist. The Body Journey is a feminist project. It lifts up the voices of women who have been weighed down by the male perspective and other pressures of society.”
Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?
“One of the causes of this hyper awareness of the female form derives from the “male gaze.” The male gaze is the idea that women are seen by the world through the eyes of a man. While the notion of the male gaze is used widely in the art world, it’s all over our culture; it’s filled in the pages of fashion magazines, it’s in TV commercials, it’s looking at us when we walk down the street and when we go to work. We are so accustomed to the male gaze, that even we, as women, are led to perceive ourselves through this paradigm. In the PBS documentary, “Ways of Seeing,” writer John Berger states,
“Men look at women, women watch themselves being looked at.”
This quote perfectly sums up the universal amount of pressure put upon women. We know we are being looked at, and this becomes a psychological burden.”
Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s societies around the world? Have you any experience of this?
“There have been such incredible strides in feminism throughout the past century. The amount of women in leadership roles across all fields is remarkable. This does not mean, however, that society perceives or treats women and men equally in these roles. Part of The Body Journey’s mission is to explore the ways women are internally affected by this difference in treatment and educate our society in a forward-thinking manner.”
How can your project be used to create change and is this something you want for your mission?
“The Body Journey is a starting point for change by spreading awareness. Rather than creating immediate change, right now I see The Body Journey as an opening bloom. Participants gain—or regain—awareness about their bodies and our society gains awareness about the ways we perceive ourselves.”
What are your goals with this project?
“The Body Journey’s greatest goal is to open an empathic and honest conversation about women and body image. I am exploring the different ways we as a society can communally debrief about these amazing drawings. How will we learn from them? I am currently developing the project into a program to bring to schools and organizations. Later along the line, I’d like to have the drawings made into a book for people to look through. The experience of holding the drawings closely and reading every woman’s every word is so powerful. I also look forward to finding a venue to display the drawings publicly. With all of this in mind, The Body Journey’s continues to spread its wings in all ways possible. We are reaching out internationally, gathering women who speak all kinds of languages, from all kinds of cultures and of all ages.”
“Through The Body Journey, I hope that women around the globe feel a sense of community; a community that provides comfort to those who feel alone in their journeys. Frida Kahlo, who created many amazing, dynamic self-portraits, wrote,
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
As Frida Kahlo hoped to connect a fellow female, I hope that The Body Journey helps us all to connect through our bizarreness, our flaws, and our wonderfully strange ways!”
What is your next project that you are working on?
“The Body Journey has been an unbelievably informative experience for me, as an artist who represents the female form. Knowing only the relationship I have with my own body, I paint from my own body journey, experiences and research. I wanted to learn about the relationships other women have with their bodies, and see how they represent this relationship. As I continue to guide The Body Journey’s movement, I am strengthening my voice and vulnerability in my own drawings and paintings.”
What made you want to get involved with our non-profit ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL mission?
“I created The Body Journey because I hoped it would help people. I wanted to educate people. The first time I read Art Saves Lives International’s mission, I felt as though I was reading The Body Journey’s mission through someone else’s words! The Body Journey, too, “aims to utilize art as a medium to engage, educate and express.” And as Art Saves Lives International does, The Body Journey strives to create an opportunity for women to create, allowing space for reflection, release and debriefing, and for us all to come together and initiate change.”
What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?
“Art is the safest place for people to express themselves. No matter what we are experiencing, where we are, in whatever mood, condition, or state of mind, we can always come back to art. What we create will always have meaning if we are vulnerable and open to what we feel. Artmaking provides tangibility and tactility in a chaotic and abstract world. Art saves lives because making art is parallel to living life. And so much of what we go through in life, we experience in our bodies. This is why drawing our bodies is such a visceral and profound experience.”
Get involved with
The Body Journey
Visit Miriam Ross’s