Despite the inconvenience of an 8 AM Sunstone session this past July, my friend Katrina Barker Anderson delivered a compelling and beautiful presentation about her recent art project, Mormon Women Bare. If you haven’t seen it yet, go check it out!
The website features a description of the project and a gallery of images of women who have been photographed completely naked. These women are of varied shapes and sizes, some post pregnancy, with stretch marks and sagging breasts.
The images show the true nature of her subjects, just living in their skin. These women are brave and vulnerable, just living in bodies that are not perfect. In her project description, Katrina explains that modesty culture has become suffocating and because “images can be very powerful tools for change,” she wants this project to help change the way Mormon women and men think of the female body. Because, “the more we see something, the more normal and less taboo it becomes.” It’s a powerful message and a dramatic foil to the increased modesty rhetoric from the LDS church.
I was excited to learn that Katrina’s work has been praised by international publications, but so far is largely unnoticed in her Utah community.
This Op-Ed in the Salt Lake Tribune speaks to the modesty culture which Katrina is trying expose.
Art historian Alexandra Karl explains that Katrina’s work fits in a category with other feminist artists who have also tried to reclaim the body from media distortion and cultural pressure. What’s unique is how she approaches this topic among Mormons. And since Mormon’s aren’t known for embracing nude art, I guess we can’t be surprised that BYU isn’t banging down the door to exhibit Mormon Women Bare. Karl cites BYU’s art censoring of Rodin’s The Kiss which was covered with a bed sheet when it came to the Provo campus.
Despite the lukewarm reception Karl sees that Katrina has received in Utah, there is hope that her work will be shared and continue to spread through international press and progressive Mormon communities.
I reached out to Katrina today asking about the response she’s receiving in Utah.
The response here in Utah has been mixed as I expected. There are those who love it and think it is needed and important. There are those who hate it and think I’m creating pornography. There are some who realize that the issues I’m bringing up about modesty and body image are important but don’t agree with my methods. And then there are some people who just don’t “get it”. But for those who do get it, it is doing a lot of good. Last week I went through several of the emails and messages I’ve gotten and compiled them on a page on the website so others could read the positive response to the project. Hearing from those who are moved by this work make all the naysayers worth it.
Also, Katrina is still looking for models for her project. She is particularly excited to photograph women of color and varying generations, although she appreciates any volunteers. If you are interested, please contact her through her site.
My hope is that her work continues to be shared and appreciated. Katrina is both an advocate and an artist, a winning combination.