Katie Budd

Bodies That Deviate

This body of work consists of two parts: one features a selection of traditional portraiture, and the other, a series of nude figures. Shot deadpan, the portraits depict several women donning a hospital gown, whose gaze confronts the viewer with an emotionless stare. The opposing images of unclothed figures feature the affected bodies of the same women, fragmented, depersonalized and put on display.

Focusing on notions of the feminine disabled body, these images reference the active and passive dichotomies associated with the body as spectacle —an object under the medical and gendered gaze. The experience of illness/disability is often disruptive, forced and threatening, making one aware of the materiality of the body and hyper-aware of any physical differences it may bring on. The inflicted part(s) is made to feel alien from the rest, becoming othered in an effort to create a body/self division. The feminine disabled body is constructed as the embodiment of bodily insufficiencies and deviance in visual culture. Under the medical model, she is seen as a passive object in need of medical intervention, as a defect that must be cured or normalized. Her body is poked, prodded, fragmented and charted. Under the gendered gaze she is seen as an abnormal feminine body, a further departure from idealized femininity and therefore in need of beautification, in order to assert her feminine privilege. The disabled feminine body experienced under the gendered gaze and medical gaze is seen as an object to be tended to.

The brazen objection of abstract body-scapes makes explicit what is usually hidden and experienced privately. These images are intended to represent the experience of being a spectacle, while placing emphasis on the presence of universal bodily needs and experience. The ill/disabled feminine body is understood in relation to the perceived norm from which it deviates. The opposing portraits’ refusal to cower under the stare of onlooker is indicative of their insistent worth and mutual humanness. The portraits not only make reference to their abstracted other, but to the act of looking in and of itself as their position places the audience in the middle able to stare back at those who survey them.