Staring Back, Deadpan: Ugliness and Abjection in Iiu Susiraja’s Self-Portraits / Stefanie Snider

Iiu Susiraja, Broom [detail], from Good Behavior Series, 2008-10, Digital Photograph

Fat, white, and Finnish artist Iiu Susiraja, working in the field of photography since 2008, has created several photographic series that emphasize the strangeness of human bodies and behaviors. Susiraja plays with everyday, seemingly random objects, and places them on, within, and next to her own body in unexpected, but calculated, ways. In The Built Sense (2014), Susiraja wears an orange-red t-shirt pulled open at the neck and stretched under her left arm. Wrapped around her head a thick red piece of string solidly attaches a large stem of red berries growing from green leaves to the left side of her face and a smaller lavender flower to her right. A mole on Susiraja’s upper arm is circled in red marker, reinforcing the overall color story of the photograph. Susiraja’s slouching posture, double chin, clothing arrangement, and tightly-wrapped head yarn make it obvious that she is fat. Susiraja stares directly at the viewer, between the lines of the wrapped string, and her blue-grey eyes are intense and soulful, especially in contrast with the red themes of the image. She communicates deeply with this stare, this posture, this clothing, these colors, and these accessories in this self-portrait. But what does she say to us, the viewers of this photograph? Are we meant to laugh at her or with her? Are we meant to feel attraction, desire, sorrow, pity, revulsion? How are we to take this odd presentation of the artist as subject of the image? This essay examines several of Susiraja’s photographs and videos using frameworks of feminist disability studies and fat studies1 to better understand how her work embodies absurdity and abjection in ways that make her imagery especially compelling examples of unflattering, even ugly, self-portraits.

Iiu Susiraja, The Built Sense, 2014, Digital Photograph

Susiraja describes the process she takes in making her self-portraits as both thoughtful and spontaneous: “First, I write down the names of several objects, whatever passes through my head, then I look for a way to use each object. If I don’t have the items at home, I’ll go out and buy them. Then I wait for the right day, because I use natural light, so it needs to be a sunny day. I use the timer to take photos of myself, then I usually have to clean everything because I often work with food like fish, eggs, etc. I am the subject of my art, which is why I photograph myself. I put myself through a lot in my photos, and I figure it wouldn’t be very nice of me to do that to other people.”2 Starting with her first photographic series, Good Behavior (2008-2010), Susiraja photographed herself in living spaces, surrounding herself with bits and pieces of everyday life in odd juxtapositions. These photographs are great examples of what sociologist Zoë Meleo-Erwin has described as the “ordinary and familiar,” an approach to fat life and politics that builds upon the queer disability studies work of Eli Clare.3 Meleo-Erwin and Clare describe “the ordinary and familiar” as the understanding of the overlapping and varied physical, emotional, and psychological pleasure and pain found in the material and corporeal lives of marginalized communities. Clare argues that LGBT/Q and disabled folks should “celebrate our irrevocably different bodies, our queerness, our crip lives, telling stories and creating for ourselves an abiding sense of the ordinary and the familiar.”4 As I’ve written elsewhere, “By focusing on the ordinary and familiar we can displace a desire toward normativity that white supremacist, abled, and heteropatriarchal body and appearance paradigms reinforce and instead revel in the strangeness, awkwardness, and ugliness of our lives. This idea approaches fatness—and other marginalized embodiments—not as a pathology that needs to be fixed or as a new way to demonstrate beauty, but as a fundamental part of one’s life that can be appreciated for its variety and nuance.”5 Susiraja’s photographs evince this method by showing her own fat white body engaging with everyday objects in strange and unexpected ways. While these juxtapositions are often funny, but they don’t mock Susiraja’s fat body or make her into a joke. Instead, Susiraja’s imagery forges her body and its representations as a framework for the critique of conformity and normativity in visually compelling ways.

There is a substantial history of fat oppression and stigma against fat bodies in the west, dating to the latter half of the nineteenth century, when the increasing force of industrialization and burgeoning global capitalism started to change the way society regarded fat and fatness; fat went from symbolizing comfort and success to greed and corruption.6 Since then, the meanings of fat and fatness have morphed and accrued in culturally- and historically-specific ways, but in general fatness and fat people continue to be seen as problematically excessive and dangerous because they transgress the parameters of cultural norms that value thin and physically and morally “contained” bodies. I have argued previously that by embracing monstrousness and excessiveness fat people can deconstruct “dominant cultural ideolog[ies] about fatness as a sign of moral weakness, physical laziness and illness, and aesthetic debasement.”7 By embracing these cultural assumptions about fat and fatness, we can work to disempower the negativity associated with such contentions, moving instead toward showcasing all human bodies, including fat ones, as part of the aesthetic and conceptual variety and strangeness of humanity. Queer and disabled folks have paved the way for this, even in the deceptively simple, but still often fraught, adoption of the terms queer, dyke, fag, gimp, and crip as self-descriptors, reclaiming and re-framing them to empty them of their hurtful meanings and challenge normative assumptions about bodies and desires.8 Iiu Susiraja’s photographs and videos work toward these goals for fat bodies by inverting beauty ideals and welcoming ugliness.

Iiu Susiraja’s still photographs and films examine how a politics of ugliness in self-portraiture could—and should—be actively embraced as a strategy for queering mainstream visual and cultural norms. The little English literature on Susiraja consists primarily of short digital magazine articles about her artwork. Almost invariably in these articles, often based on interviews with the artist, the authors suggest that Susiraja’s photographs are “controversial,” though this concept is rarely explained.9 “Controversy” is a fraught term in the history of art. It tells us very little and implies quite a lot. The term is often used as an umbrella to categorize certain types of artwork: visual imagery that displays explicit sexualized, racialized, and/or religious material; imagery of violence and confrontation; and imagery that might cause viewers discomfort in some way. So, what makes Susiraja’s photographs controversial? If it is that she poses with incongruous props critics would have to be unaware or dismissive of nearly the entire history of photography, as photographic subjects have posed with dead bodies, animals, sex toys, body prosthetics, and more for nearly two centuries. If it is that she takes photographs in domestic spaces, that would call into question hundreds of years of genre paintings. What is left to cause Susiraja’s imagery to be controversial? The accusation of “controversy” appears aimed precisely at Susiraja’s fatness, and maybe even more so, at her matter-of-factness about her fatness and the various situations into which she places her fat body. Is it “controversial” that Susiraja plays with her fat and fatness, does not overlook or hide it, and frequently accentuates it? If we accept that Susiraja’s self-portraits are controversial because of this, perhaps it is because they invoke discomfort, disunity, and an aesthetics of ugliness that plays on the repulsion / attraction cycle of visual imagery. As humans, we are often most compelled by the most disturbing imagery; be it theatrical explosion or bloody accident on the side of the road, we can’t seem to look away. I would argue that Susiraja takes advantage of this human characteristic of staring at that which we deem strange, and in using everyday household items in her self-portraits she transforms these ordinary objects into extraordinary images. In a short interview with Ben Jolley for Dazed, Susiraja suggests that the message of her work is that “The abnormal may be normal.”10 But what if her work, instead, transformed the normal into the abnormal?

In a photograph from the Good Behavior series called Duvet Feet, Susiraja duct tapes black pumps, suspended in clear plastic bags, to her shins. We see her legs from mid-thigh down: white, wrinkly, pudgy skin and bare feet against a blank wall and wooden floor. The photograph insists on the incongruity between stubby, squared-off human feet and the pointed, shiny black high heeled shoes women are traditionally expected to shove those feet into. By placing the shoes in plastic bags and attaching them to her legs, Susiraja makes the viewer do a double take, pointing to the absurdity not only of the structure of the shoes and their representations of conventional femininity in western culture, but to her challenge to them. Susiraja does not simply reject the shoes and their symbolism; she re-works them, placing them in clear plastic and taping them to her legs, to emphasize their incompatibility with the human body in a way strange unto itself. Multiple layers of absurdity are highlighted here as the ordinary becomes extraordinary both visually and conceptually.

Iiu Susiraja, Duvet Feet, from Good Behavior Series, 2008-10, Digital Photograph

In another image, titled Broom, Susiraja places a broom over her shirt and under her hanging breasts. She is clearly not wearing a bra, allowing her breasts to take ahold of the broomstick. She is standing in a kitchen, signaled by a counter on which utensils stand in a cup on one side and on the other a table and chairs, covered in a pink and orange tablecloth. Susiraja wears plain clothing, a black skirt and grey shirt, and her surroundings and props clearly indicate that she is in standing in her house, not a studio or other aesthetic setting. Training finds Susiraja in yet another interior domestic space. She stands on a still treadmill wearing black socks and black mid-calf pants, a long turquoise t-shirt, and what becomes the focal point of the image: a knit hat on her head that helps to hold two golden-brown braided bread loaves on either side of her face as if to mimic plaited hair. Each of these photographs can make the viewer laugh as they look at the components and decipher what they are seeing. Susiraja’s unusual use of common objects jar the viewer out of any sense of boredom with the familiar; the subjects of the images—simultaneously Susiraja and her relationships to the selected objects—deviate so clearly from any social norms that they cannot in any way be seen as typical.

Susiraja does not only create still photographs; she also has a burgeoning oeuvre of short films that put the ideas I have been discussing, quite literally, into motion. Susiraja uses the medium of video to further stage the absurdity of feminized bodies by forcing their interaction with unexpected objects. In most of these films, Susiraja enacts a limited and repetitive behavior; in I Feel 2 (2016), spitting onto a plate; in Steaks (2017), using her heeled shoes as meat mallets; in Big Melody (2018), peeing on a drum; and in Come Play with Me (2018), rolling a toy car over her body. By concentrating on a single action within each, the films become what curator Michele Bosak has described as extensions of the still-photographs Susiraja is best known for.11 Even as brief as they are, the actions of the films become meditative. Susiraja’s deadpan look outward at the viewer, while she makes small, repetitive movements with her body helps create a focus of the films that seem calming, even mesmerizing.

Iiu Susiraja, Training, from Good Behavior Series, 2008-10, Photograph

At the same time, however, in several of these films Susiraja enacts behaviors that go beyond simply seeming boring or odd. They move instead into what we might describe as the abject by using food items and/or bodily fluids in unexpected ways. In I Feel 2, Susiraja enters the spare frame and spits on a wooden chair. After spitting onto a plate she holds in her hands several times, Susiraja holds the plate to her face and licks up the spittle. Wearing a black nightgown or tunic in Big Melody, Susiraja walks into a hallway space, positions herself just so over a small drum, and lets out a stream of clear urine that hits the instrument and creates its sound, walking away a few seconds later. In Red Cheeks (2017) Susiraja squirts ketchup onto the palm of one hand, rubs circles of the condiment onto her cheeks, and then proceeds to eat a hotdog while dipping the ends into the ketchup splotches on her face. Within the field of feminist theory, abjection has been defined by scholars such as Julia Kristeva and Margrit Shildrick as that which threatens the boundaries of the subject and object, or self and other.12 This typically can be signaled through the breaking of the conventional boundaries of the body—by literally breaking the skin or more figuratively breaking the illusion of the self-contained and inviolable edges of the body—bleeding, vomiting, pissing, and spitting are all signs of these crossed boundaries. In the threat or break down of the (imagined) lines between subject and object, we might experience physical or psychic revulsion because we recognize and fight against the erosion of the illusion of self-containment and orderliness. In viewing abject subjects, we realize the base materiality of our bodies and have a heightened sense that we, ourselves, might experience these same breaks, exposing the tenuousness of subjecthood. In her short videos, Susiraja’s small actions reverberate into longer-lasting ones that stay with us, drawing us in and repelling us at the same time. The sound included in these single-channel videos emphasizes the abject reading of these works, as we hear the spitting, licking, squishing, peeing, and more over the ambient background noise. Susiraja’s deadpan look and her strange and humorous actions further enhance this tension between subject and object, self and other, the entrancing and the revolting.

In her photographs and films, Susiraja successfully combines strangeness and humor to interrogate our normative assumptions about bodies and their various configurations. Yet she neither mocks nor pities fat people or fat bodies while doing so. She rather addresses the awkwardness of (fat) bodies by staging the simultaneous absurdity and ephemerality of life. The films and photographs have the potential to create empathetic viewing conditions as we discover reinvented human bodies in unexpected, yet mundane, environments. In using the ordinary and familiar objects of everyday life in her imagery, Susiraja highlights their ridiculous shapes, textures, colors, and most significantly, their ridiculous functions. Susiraja’s images de-familiarize the everyday in a way similar to what happens in our brains when we repeat a word again and again and again. Something that had been so familiar suddenly turns bewildering, even uncanny, forcing us to question what and how we know the world. Susiraja’s imagery forces the objects and environments to become strange and unfamiliar, even laughable, in contrast to her fat white feminized body. Her body points to the irrationality of the objects, the poses, and the settings in the still photographs and the videos.

In the series called What Am I? (2017-2018), Susiraja explores this ridiculousness further by staging several of her photographs within an excessively decorated sitting room or bedroom. In the photograph called French Loafs, Susiraja sits on a brown, green, and beige floral and stripe patterned couch surrounded by similarly green and orange floral wallpaper, burgundy velvet pillows and drapes, gilt and brown marble furniture, and above her head, a large framed reproduction that – based on the clothing and interior depicted therein – looks like an eighteenth-century card-playing scene. Susiraja, centered in the image, wears a tank top and underwear that matches her skin tone, but no pants. She sits with two baguettes balanced in her body’s folds—one vertically, between her legs, a yeasted phallus, perhaps, and one horizontally just under her breasts, like the broom in the earlier image. Like the other self-portraits we have seen, Susiraja stares out at the viewer intensely, though neutrally. While the mounds of her pale fat fleshiness are obvious in the photograph, and the loaves of bread accentuate her placement in the image, within her environment Susiraja seems dwarfed by the elaborately-patterned and richly-colored décor. Even though she stands out as the single human sitter, and holds the two bread loaves in odd ways, the figure of Susiraja appears a calming respite within an otherwise overwhelming visual scene. While Los Angeles Times art critic David Pagel has described Susiraja as “working real hard to look as if she couldn’t care less about the single-gesture performances she has staged for the camera,”13 I think that Susiraja is much more thoughtful about her self-portraits. These are not the ironic images of the conventional twenty-first century hipster, looking bored because they’ve done it all. Susiraja’s self-portraits are more straightforward than intentionally (or unintentionally) ironic. They are humorous, but not sarcastic or sardonic, and they appear as if, in fact, Susiraja cares quite a bit. She might stare expressionlessly out at the viewer, but this does not project boredom. Instead this deadpan look seems like a blank canvas on which viewers might cast their own interpretations, adding up the strange combination of “normal” things until they seem to reach a critical mass, congealing into something abnormal. Further, Susiraja’s self-portraits are not spontaneous selfies either, as other critics have described the work, focused on the presentation of the self in flattering or even natural modes. While the everyday qualities of Susiraja’s settings and props are often clearly related to the banality of selfies, Susiraja’s photographs are not staged as selfies. They are more closely aligned, visually, with typical photographic self-portraiture and portraiture since at least the middle of the nineteenth century, when photographic equipment became portable and affordable enough for artists to use it frequently in their work. The images have a thoughtful candor to them that, while recalling the spontaneous nature of selfies, create a much more considered image where staging is key. Susiraja’s photographs are not quick and lively, but they do have a sense of humor that is frequently part of digital culture and social media imagery.

Iiu Susiraja, French Loafs, from What Am I? Series, 2017-2018, Digital Photograph

Furthermore, Susiraja’s self-portraits—in part because of her deadpan stare—encourage us to stare at her as a subject—to try to decipher the simultaneous strange complexity and banality of her scenarios. In French Loafs, for example, we cannot help but look, and look deeply, at Susiraja, her baguettes, and her surroundings, even if just trying to decipher the situation. Indeed, it seems to me that Susiraja has staged an image—and event—in this and other of her self-portraits that actually creates an exceedingly care-full representation despite what critic David Pagel contends; she seems to have thought long and hard about what might make viewers stop and think long and hard at an artwork in the context of a world full of visual stimuli that we tend to ignore, even in a gallery or museum setting.14

Disability studies theorist Rosemarie Garland-Thomson examines the actions involved in staring in her book of the same name. For Garland-Thomson, staring, or intense looking, can be usefully provocative; it can produce new narratives about human lives, about representations, and about how “the other,” or in Garland-Thomson’s words, the “staree,” figures in dominant and subcultural discourses. Garland-Thomson writes, “Triggered by the sight of someone who seems unlike us, staring can begin an exploratory expedition into ourselves and outward into new worlds. Because we come to expect one another to have certain kinds of bodies and behaviors, stares flare up when we glimpse people who look or act in ways that contradict our expectations. Seeing startlingly stare-able people challenges our assumptions by interrupting complacent visual business-as-usual. Staring offers an occasion to rethink the status quo. Who we are can shift into focus by staring at who we think we are not.”15 Garland-Thomson argues that staring, or deep looking, is prompted for humans by noticing something or someone novel within our conventional contexts. And while staring can traditionally have negative connotations, as with the objectification of the “other” in a spectacular way, Garland-Thomson stresses the ways in which staring / looking / viewing can open our worlds and bring new people or communities together. In particular, she places emphasis on the ways in which looking at others helps us to not only gain knowledge about them, but also about ourselves: “Staring is a conduit to knowledge. Stares are urgent efforts to make the unknown known, to render legible something that seems at first glance incomprehensible. In this way, staring becomes a starer’s quest to know and a staree’s opportunity to be known. Whatever or whomever embodies the unpredictable, strange, or disordered prompts stares and demands putting order to apparent disarray, taming the world with our eyes. Because we are all starers, knowledge gathering is the most productive aspect of staring in that it can offer an opportunity to recognize one another in new ways.”16

To add to this, Susiraja’s self-portraits revel in what Mia Mingus, disabled queer writer and activist of color, calls “a politic of ugly and magnificence.” Mingus writes, “As the (generational) effects of global capitalism, genocide, violence, oppression and trauma settle into our bodies, we must build new understandings of bodies and gender that can reflect our histories and our resiliency, not our oppressor or our self-shame and loathing. We must shift from a politic of desirability and beauty to a politic of ugly and magnificence. That moves us closer to bodies and movements that disrupt, dismantle, disturb. Bodies and movements ready to throw down and create a different way for all of us, not just some of us.”17 Mingus connects an embrace of ugliness with a perspective of social justice and political efficacy that is founded in resistance to historic and contemporary regimes of racism, ableism, homophobia, sexism, and cissexism. She seeks a move away from beauty-based bodily norms because no matter how expansive they might become, they continue to reify these oppressions. Mingus’s revolution is based in the lived, bodily experiences of marginalized people, where the power of ugliness comes from its ability to disturb norms and break down hierarchies. She argues that we need to implement the power of resistance found in the ugly: “Seeing its power and magic, seeing the reasons it has been feared. Seeing it for what it is: some of our greatest strength.”18 Following this logic, Susiraja’s photographs can speak well beyond the specifics of her domestic spaces and living experiences as a fat, white, Finnish artist. They can contribute to a visual politics that enacts a valuation of multiplicity rather than exclusion.

While Susiraja’s photographs and films do not exhibit any explicit relation to any sexual orientation, her self-portraits queer conventions of photographic portraiture and oppressive, fatphobic assumptions about how bodies should act and what bodies should look like. In espousing the ordinary and familiar, Meleo-Erwin has argued, “a ‘queer’ fat activism offers us a way to crack open the concept of normal and trouble it in order to see what relations of power it acts in the service of.”19Considering the long relationship the history of art has had with the aesthetics of beauty and normative corporealities in culturally- and historically-contingent ways, troubling the normal gives us opportunities for expanding our ability to see, to recognize, and to acknowledge more in our lives—and the lives of marginalized communities around the world. Iiu Susiraja’s photographic and filmic self-portraits represent this politics of ugliness and helps to make fatness, strangeness, ugliness, and awkwardness visually and conceptually compelling. Her works establish new ways of seeing the frontier of uncontainable bodies as, in Mingus’s words, “magnificently ugly.”20

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Bosak, Michele. Gallery Talk for She Stares Back Exhibition. The Fed Galleries, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, Grand Rapids, MI. January 24, 2019.

Clare, Eli. “Sex Celebration and Justice: A Keynote for QD 2002.” Keynote Lecture at Queer Disability Conference, San Francisco State University, June 3, 2002. Text available at Disability Social History Project. Accessed February 16, 2019. http://www.disabilityhistory.org/dwa/queer/paper_clare.html.

Farrell, Amy Erdman. Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture. New York and London: New York University Press, 2011.

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Staring: How We Look. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Jolley, Ben. “Iiu Susiraja’s Body Talking Selfies.” Dazed. October 15, 2014. Accessed February 16, 2019. http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/22129/1/iiu-susirajas-body-talking-selfies.

Kaplan, Isaac. “How Long do People Really Spend Looking at Art in Museums?” November 7, 2017. Accessed February 16, 2019. https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-long-people-spend-art-museums.

Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.

Linton, Simi. Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity. New York, New York University Press, 1998.

Mahieddine, Dounia. “Photographer Mocks Beauty Standards with her Absurdist Self-Portraits.” Konbini. June 4, 2018. Accessed February 16, 2019. http://www.konbini.com/us/inspiration/iiu-susiraja-mocks-beauty-standards-absurdist-selfies/.

Meleo-Erwin, Zoë. “Disrupting Normal: Toward the ‘Ordinary and Familiar’ in Fat Politics.” Feminism and Psychology. 22:3 (2012), 388-402.

Mingus, Mia. “Moving Toward the Ugly: A Politic Beyond Desirability.” Keynote Speech. Femmes of Color Symposium, Oakland, CA, August 21, 2011. Emphasis Original. Published on Mingus’ blog, Leaving Evidence, August 22, 2011. Accessed February 16, 2019. https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/moving-toward-the-ugly-a-politic-beyond-desirability/.

Nielsen, Joacim. “Iiu Susiraja on Redefining Photography.” Culture Trip. December 22, 2016. Accessed February 16, 2019. https://theculturetrip.com/europe/finland/articles/iiu-susiraja-redefining-portrait-photography/.

Pagel, David. “Is This Trying Too Hard, or Maybe Not Hard Enough? A Finnish Artist Asks: What Am I?” Los Angeles Times. June 9, 2018. Accessed February 16, 2019. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-et-cm-iiu-susiraja-review-20180609-htmlstory.html#.

Shildrick, Margrit. Leaky Bodies and Boundaries: Feminism, Postmodernism, and (Bio)Ethics. London and New York: Routledge, 1997.

Snider, Stefanie. “On the Limitations of the Rhetoric of Beauty: Embracing Ugliness in Contemporary Fat Visual Representations” in On the Politics of Ugliness. Eds. Sara Rodrigues and Ela Przybylo. London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Stearns, Peter R. Fat History: Bodies and Beauty in the Modern West. New York and London: New York University Press, 2002.


  1. Following the typical vocabulary used in the field of fat studies, I will use the terms fat and fatness to describe the substance of fat as well as larger-sized embodiments throughout this essay. Fat, as a descriptive word, has been embraced by fat activists and scholars as a neutral term in contrast to “overweight” and “obese,” two medicalized terms that imply that fat and fat bodies are pathological compared with thinner bodies. For fat activism and fat studies, the use of the term fat implies a political investment in body acceptance that goes beyond mere tolerance for diverse bodily forms to an advocacy for fat liberation.
  2. Susiraja quoted in Dounia Mahieddine, “Photographer Mocks Beauty Standards with her Absurdist Self-Portraits,” Konbini, June 4, 2018, accessed February 16, 2019, http://www.konbini.com/us/inspiration/iiu-susiraja-mocks-beauty-standards-absurdist-selfies/.
  3. Zoë Meleo-Erwin, “Disrupting Normal: Toward the ‘Ordinary and Familiar’ in Fat Politics.” Feminism and Psychology 22:3 (2012), 397.
  4. Eli Clare, “Sex Celebration and Justice: A Keynote for QD 2002,” Keynote Lecture at Queer Disability Conference, San Francisco State University, June 3, 2002. Text available at Disability Social History Project, Accessed February 16, 2019, http://www.disabilityhistory.org/dwa/queer/paper_clare.html.
  5. Stefanie Snider, “On the Limitations of the Rhetoric of Beauty: Embracing Ugliness in Contemporary Fat Visual Representations,” On the Politics of Ugliness, Eds. Sara Rodrigues and Ela Przybylo. (London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 351.
  6. For further analysis of the history of the status of fatness and fat bodies in the west, please see Peter R. Stearns, Fat History: Bodies and Beauty in the Modern West. (New York and London: New York University Press, 2002) and Amy Erdman Farrell, Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture. (New York and London: New York University Press, 2011).
  7. Snider, “On the Limitations of the Rhetoric of Beauty,” 337.
  8. For example, see Clare, “Sex Celebration and Justice” and Simi Linton, Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity. (New York, New York University Press, 1998).
  9. For mention of Susiraja’s photographs as controversial, see Mahieddine and Joacim Nielsen, “Iiu Susiraja on Redefining Photography,” Culture Trip, December 22, 2016, accessed February 16, 2019, https://theculturetrip.com/europe/finland/articles/iiu-susiraja-redefining-portrait-photography/.
  10. Iiu Susiraja quoted in Ben Jolley, “Iiu Susiraja’s Body Talking Selfies,” Dazed, October 15, 2014, accessed February 16, 2019, http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/22129/1/iiu-susirajas-body-talking-selfies.
  11. Michele Bosak, Gallery Talk for She Stares Back Exhibition. The Fed Galleries, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, Grand Rapids, MI, January 24, 2019.
  12. Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982) and Margrit Shildrick, Leaky Bodies and Boundaries: Feminism, Postmodernism, and (Bio)Ethics. (London and New York: Routledge, 1997).
  13. David Pagel, “Is This Trying Too Hard, or Maybe Not Hard Enough? A Finnish Artist Asks: What Am I?,” Los Angeles Times, June 9, 2018, accessed February 16, 2019, http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-et-cm-iiu-susiraja-review-20180609-htmlstory.html#.
  14. Researchers have found that on average, museum visitors typically spend between 20 and 30 seconds looking at individual artworks. Isaac Kaplan, “How Long do People Really Spend Looking at Art in Museums?” November 7, 2017, accessed February 16, 2019, https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-long-people-spend-art-museums.
  15. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Staring: How We Look. (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 6.
  16. Garland-Thomson, Staring: How We Look,15.
  17. Mia Mingus, “Moving Toward the Ugly: A Politic Beyond Desirability,” Keynote Speech, Femmes of Color Symposium, Oakland, CA, August 21, 2011. Emphasis Original. Published on Mingus’ blog, Leaving Evidence, August 22, 2011, accessed February 16, 2019, https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/moving-toward-the-ugly-a-politic-beyond-desirability/.
  18. Mingus, “Moving Toward the Ugly”
  19. Meleo-Erwin, “Disrupting Normal,” 396.
  20. Mingus, “Moving Toward the Ugly”