Eating Disorders in a Disordered Culture is the first visual arts
project of its kind exploring the personal, cultural and historical
dimensions of eating disorders. This multi-faceted project is designed
for three venues: exhibitions in galleries and museums; public art,
such as billboards and bus shelters; and the Web.
Eating Disorders in a Disordered Culture provides a visual expression
of the experience of eating disorders by combining textual narratives
with powerful visual imagery in order to convey both the personal
experience and the cultural pervasiveness of eating disorders. The
narratives and images are utilized in posters, prints and sculptural
pieces. The gallery exhibitions also include a Secret Appetites
dining installation. At the table, visitors can listen to an audio-CD
recording of women, men, friends and family describing their experiences
with eating disorders.
Designed to be interactive, Eating Disorders in a Disordered Culture
includes a Web site <www.eating.ucdavis.edu>, which displays
the imagery from the project. It also contains a resource guide
and provides a place for people to contribute their own stories
about their experiences with eating disorders. Of the 350 plus stories
currently on the Web site, 300 have been contributed by visitors
to the site. These personal narratives have been sent from as far
away as Sweden and Australia and from across the United States.
Although the subject of eating disorders goes in and out of fashion
as a topic of media and scientific research attention, the reality
is that an estimated 5 million to 8 million people in the United
States suffer from eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa,
bulimia nervosa and compulsive eating. As many as 25% of all college-age
women in the United States are estimated to experience eating disorders.
Complications from anorexia and bulimia can lead to death.
In the United States, Eating Disorders in a Disordered Culture,
has helped raise awareness and create a sense of empathy for those
who suffer from eating disorders. Argentina will be the first country
to host the exhibition outside of the United States. The project
will be included in an exhibition on food and art "Al Plato!
Muestra sobre Arte y Alimentacion", at the Centro Cultural
Recoleta in Buenos Aries. The hope is that the project will again
generate an increased awareness of eating disorders and an increased
sensitivity to those people experiencing them.
In Eating Disorders and Cultures in Transition the editors, Nasser,
Katzman, and Gordon, state that "During the 1990's, there have
been reports of what has been referred to as an 'epidemic' of eating
disorders in Argentina, particularly in Buenos Aires." Prior
to 1990, eating disorders were most often reported in Europe, North
America, Japan, or Chile. They contend that countries reporting
eating disorders after 1990 include Hong Kong, Mainland China, South
Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Nigeria, Mexico, Argentina, and
To explore the phenomena of this cultural "epidemic"
a panel on eating disorders will be included as one of the many
events surrounding the "Al Plato! Muestra sobre Arte y Alimentacion",exhibition
at the Centro Cultural Recoleta . The panel will include physicians,
clinicians, historians, and theorists from Argentina who will contextualize
eating disorders within the Argentinean society. The intention is
that the visual dialogue, which occurs in the art exhibition at
the Centro Cultural Recoleta, and the issues raised during the panel
will help shed light on eating disorders and on our sometimes problematic
relationship with food. These cultural discussions also reinforce
the understanding that art can be a powerful tool for social dialogue
A short history of Eating Disorders in a Disordered Culture:
There have been over 14 gallery and museum exhibitions of Eating
Disorders in a Disordered Culture in the United States. Solo exhibitions
include: the McMullen Museum on the Boston College campus, 2002;
the Sweeney Art Gallery, University of California, Riverside, 2001;
Parsons School of Design in New York City, 2001; The Sesnon Gallery,
University of California, Santa Cruz, 2000; Art Gallery at San Francisco
State University in 2000. Group exhibitions include: LA County Museum
of Art's "Made in California" from 2000-2001; Delaware
Center for Contemporary Arts, "Body Politic", 2002-2003;
Euphrat Museum of Art, "To Your Health!" Cupertino, California;
Soho Photography Gallery, "Not for Profit", New York,
Public art projects have been displayed in twelve communities throughout
the United States, including: 14'x48' billboard on display along
Interstate 80 northeast of San Francisco in 1998; a major public
art campaign in Toledo, Ohio with six billboards and twenty-nine
exterior bus posters in 2000; twenty subway station posters in New
York City in 2001; ten metro station posters in Washington, D.C.,
2002, ten bus shelter posters in Los Angeles, California in 2002
; Fifteen mural size banners in Eureka, Arcata, and Humboldt State
The University of California Institute for Research in the Arts
has supported the project with a $25,000 grant to produce a full-color
catalog of the project that will be available in the summer of 2003.
Advertising companies have donated over $140,000 worth of space
throughout the U.S.
The work has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers
throughout the U.S. including: Time Out New York, Sculpture Magazine,
Contact Sheet: The Light Work Annual 2001, exposure, ArtPapers,
Artweek, CameraArts, New York Post, LA (Los Angeles) Times, the
San Francisco Chronicle and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The work has been published in several books including: Women Artists
of the American West edited by Susan Ressler, Eating Disorders from
the series Diseases and People, by Kathryn Gay, Made in California;
Art Imagery and Identity, 1900-2000, catalogue for LA County Museum
Exhibition, University of California Press, Fasting Girls by Joan
Jacobs Brumberg, Beyond Boundaries: Contemporary Photography in
California published by The Friends of Photography.