Body-ody-ody: The Queer Crip Figure Art of Derek Newman-Stille

It’s all about the body in this show, particularly bodies that don’t conform. Queer, nonbinary, Disabled artist Derek Newman-Stille showcases their Queer Crip art work exploring and stretching the body. This show is about bodies that resist control and constructions of normalcy. So often art reinforces notions of one bodily ideal, limiting expressions of beauty to a narrowly defined concept. Body-ody-ody seeks to break those barriers, revelling in the diversity of the human form and highlighting the way that bodies enter and engage with the world. Like most DisArts (disability art), Newman-Stille’s work is the art of embodiment. In Body-ody-ody, Newman-Stille draws on the emotive power of expressionism to evoke a reflection on bodies that is subjective and embedded with meaning.

Image 1: Venus Venus draws inspiration from the so-called Venus Figurines from the Paleolithic. Originally, these figures were assumed to be pornographic images for men. This idea has been challenged by feminist archaeologists including by those who point out the figure’s semblance to a pregnant body when viewed from above with its large breasts and belly and tiny legs and feet - suggesting that these figures are birthing aids for women so that they can explore what their bodies would look like at different parts of their pregnancy. I was inspired by these “Venus Figurines” to examine the beauty at the intersection of fat and femininity, exploring how beautiful fat bodies can be. This work illustrates my fascination with circular forms and the beauty of rounded edges while bringing attention to the aesthetics of fat bodies. This work connects the fat and the sacred and challenges modern Western society’s belief that beauty means thinness and that thinness means healthy. Flowers are drawn across the figure’s body, illustrating a connection between fat and ideas of the natural and challenging fat-phobic ideas. The use of yarn in circular patterns evokes the history of women’s textile work. Mixed media acrylic on canvas with string, glass beads, and paper. --- Image 2: Kissed at Mid-Day Kissed at Mid-Day reflects on the practice of holding “kiss ins” by queer activists under the Queer Nationalism movement. This movement sought to identify queer people as a nation because of our distinct history, culture, and identity. They coined the phrase “We're here. We're queer. Get used to it". Queer Nation reflected on the idea that we are often rejected from our own nations and treated as others, not benefitting from the protections and sense of home that straight citizens benefit from. Queer Nation would hold “kiss ins” meant to disrupt heteronormative space while illustrating that although straight public displays of affection (PDA) are accepted, queer PDA is often treated with disgust, shaming, hiding, and acts of violence. Kissed at Mid-Day brings attention to the political power of a queer kiss by showing two figures leaning in to kiss each other. The image is bisected by a ceramic rectangle with figures across it of different body types illustrating the need for bodily diversity and pointing out the multiplicity of ways of being in society. Mixed media acrylic on wood with paper and ceramic tile.

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Aging Activisms is a program of activist research, academic mentorship, and intergenerational community-building led by
Dr. May Chazan, Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Gender and Feminist Studies at Trent University.

Thanks to Ben Hodson for our graphic. The photos on our site have been taken by members of the Aging Activisms research team and our participants and collaborators. Web design by Eugenia Ochoa and Melissa Baldwin.