Desiree Dawn Kapler is a senior BFA Imaging Arts major at Ole Miss who is currently working on her thesis titled “Exposed.” Her goal is to create a body of work concerning the emotional impact that negative body image and society’s standards have on women.
Kapler has always been interested in body image as well as women’s health, as she was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 2. Kapler explained her cancer experience correlates with the emotions she deals with, and she wants to emphasize how obnoxious women’s self-image can become.
“We spend our lives being told one thing, how to be, how much to weigh, how much hair is too much or too little, how a woman should act,” Kapler said. “But we don’t have to live like that. I want people to go home and think, ‘You know, maybe the world isn’t obsessing over my chin like I am. Maybe they see me for me.’”
Kapler said weight has been a struggle for her throughout her life, as most women do feel negative or insecure about their bodies at some point or another in their lives. Last fall, she made a body suit consisting of cotton-stuffed pantyhose with hair. She took pictures of herself in the suit struggling, as if she were inside a cocoon. In hopes to reach a more personal level with her art and show people that her art related to them, she brought her performance to the public. Around the end of September, Kapler wore the body suit around campus, to class, and even stood on top of a stool in front of the Student Union.
“Sometimes we blow our insecurities out of proportion. We think we can walk through a crowd and only be seen as that one so-called flaw,” Kapler said. “My suit is a representation of that. It’s a fat, hairy, naked suit. I can’t hide the fat and hair. It’s exposed to everyone. That’s how insecurities feel. Exposed.”
Kapler’s personal struggles with body image and health throughout her life pushed her to share her story in a way that relates to other women. She hopes students will see her work and rethink beauty along with society’s “ideal look.” With only a couple negative responses to her project, she has experienced multiple signs of gratitude from students on campus, both males and females who show interest in her project. Kapler said it is both terrifying and exciting to hear that people love what she is doing because she does not want to disappoint them as they root her on.
“What you see is not what we see. Your insecurities are not sitting on a pedestal for us to stare at,” Kapler said. “We are all in this together, and you don’t have to be afraid or too ashamed of yourself to reach out.”
Kapler stressed that in learning that she does not have to conform to society’s body image requirements, she is realizing body-hate is a simple waste of time and that we are all different. At the end of the month, five of her videos will be showcased in the gallery for her BFA Thesis Exhibit along with artists Johnathan Kent Adams and Julia Tatum, and she will graduate in December.