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The Fearsome BMI: Women Artists and Representations of the Body

March 13, 2013 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

The Fearsome BMI:  Women Artists and the Body

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person’s weight and height. BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems.”  This is the description of the BMI.  Sounds good, but is it?  It constructs an ideal for all woman that may not be conducive to a positive self image for many, particularly those from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds. Recently there has arisen a debate about whether it is actually “reliable.”  This panel at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center  will include speakers who will address contemporary mainstream ideals of beauty and health and their impact on women and diversity as seen through the eyes of contemporary women artists and scholars.


Nancy Fried began creating terra-cotta torsos of women who had undergone radical mastectomies in 1986 following her own mastectomy. She subsequently chose not to have her missing breast reconstructed. Her powerful terra-cotta Self-Portraits,  reject the norms of ideal beauty imposed by society on the female body. Fried uses her own experience of the fragility of her body and her fear of death to explore a wide range of human emotions related to loss, death, and mourning. Fried’s work is in many major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She teaches at the Ethical Culture/Fieldston School.

Firelei Baez makes large scale, intricate works on paper exploring the impact of racial stereotypes on  the female body particularly in relation to the cultural ambiguities of contemporary diasporic societies. She received a B.F.A. from The Cooper Union’s School of Art in 2004, participated in The Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2008, and later received an M.F.A. from Hunter College in 2010. She has held residencies at The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace, The Lower East Side Print Shop and The Bronx Museum’s Artist in the Marketplace. She was a recipient of the  Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Award as well as the Jaque and Natasha Gelman Award in Painting.

Lisa Rubin is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Assistant Director of Clinical Training, The New School University. Her expertise is in gender and health issues such as  Body Image; Psycho-Oncology; Psychological Aspects of Cosmetic/Reconstructive Surgery; Hereditary Cancer Risk/ Risk Management; Assisted Reproductive Technologies; Abortion and Mental Health Reproductive Issues; and Feminist Identity. Recent publications include  “Does That Make Me A Woman?: Breast Cancer, Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction Decisions Among Sexual Minority Women,”  in Psychology of Women Quarterly.

Michele Faith Wallace is an author and daughter of artist Faith Ringgold. Her publications include Black Macho and The Myth of The Superwoman and many writings on visual culture and its relationship to race and gender such as the essay, “Modernism, Postmodernism and the Problem of the Visual in Afro-American Culture”  and the book, Black Popular Culture based on a conference organized by Wallace at The Studio Museum in Harlem in 1991 titled “Why Are There No Great Black Artists? The Problem of Visuality in African-American Culture. ” Wallace earned her B.A. and M.A. in English from The City College of New Yorkand has a PhD in Cinema Studies from New York University.  She is Professor of English at The City College and Graduate Center of the City University of New York. In January 2013, she participated in the Paris conference, Black Portraiture(s): The Black Body in the West.


Tatiana Flores is an assistant professor at Rutgers University with a joint appointment in the Art History Department and the Department of Latino and Carribbean Studies. Her book, Mexico’s Revolutionary Avant-Gardes, published by Yale University Press will be available in spring 2013. She is also a curator of contemporary art exhibitions.  Her BA, MA, and PhD are from Columbia University.  She is the new director of the Rutgers University Institute for Women and Art.

Ferris Olin is a co-founding director of the Rutgers University Institute for Women and Art and a professor emerita at Rutgers.  Her most recent project with co-director Judith K. Brodsky was The Fertile Crescent:  Gender, Art,and Society. The project focused on women artists, writers, filmmakers, composers, and performers from the Middle East and took place at Rutgers and Princeton Universities, the Institute for Advanced Study, and public libraries and art centers in central New Jersey.

Admission:  $5

Panel to be followed by a reception

This panel is part of a 2 part series of discussions during Women’s History Month. The second panel will take place at the Brooklyn Museum on Saturday, March 23 at 2 pm with artists Laura Splan and Monica Ong, and writer, Sayantani Das Gupta, professor in the Narrative Medicine Master’s Program, Columbia University, contributor to the website, “Adios Barbie.” Admission to the museum required.

Sponsors: Institute for Women and Art, The Feminist Art Project, A.I.R. Gallery, Tribeca Performing Arts Center.


March 13, 2013
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Event Category:


Tribeca Performing Arts Center
199 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007 United States