Embroidery is a mixed media series created by Olivia Navarrete. She started the series roughly four years ago at a time when she was trying to overcome her ongoing battle with Ana and Mia.
Empowered women empower women - that's one of Foto Femme United's core messages. Ana and Bella are not women of that variety, nor are they actual women at all. Ana (anorexia nervosa), Bella (binge eating), Mia (bulimia nervosa) are just a few of the abbreviations used by those who are struggling with eating disorders.
The abbreviations, of which there are many, with male and female versions, serves two purposes - Not only do the shorthand names provide a covert way of publicly discussing, critiquing and comparing oneself against others in the community, but it also humanises the disorders. It then becomes easier to feel like these are friends with unique personalities, who only want what's best for you when, in reality, these are complex conditions with fatal consequences.
Using found images from old issues of Vogue and GQ, Olivia took a needle to them, literally - hand embroidering the fashion photographs/adverts with narratives that provide a tiny glimpse into the thoughts and feelings that consume those who are suffering from eating disorders. In some ways, the process of creating the series was a little bit like a mediation on the harmful effects mass media can have on individuals - most images in the series took roughly 1-3 hours to complete. Olivia enlisted art as a tool (one of many) to help her on her way to recovery. Olivia wondered if these women, underneath the hyper-real, perfectly airbrushed manifestations of the 'ideal woman', perhaps felt similar to how she had felt at times. On the flip side, the models in the images appear to be staring straight at you, almost as if they are silently judging you.
Brain depicts what goes on in the mind of those who are in the midst of an eating disorder. Hungry. Insta. Media. Hospital. Dizzy. Water. Sad. These are the words on Keira Knightley's mind. This particular image took the longest to complete - 6 hours, as it was an A2 print. Brain is an image that appears to be influenced by meme culture - it's the fine art version of a meme. Most times, we're not in control of the advertising we are exposed to; some could argue that displaying adverts in public spaces is unethical.
Tear is an image that symbolises how physically painful eating disorders can be. Olivia described a time when she went on a shopping trip with her mother, who noticed a strange smell emitting from her daughter. They later discovered that the smell was the result of Olivia's body, eating away at itself as it had been severely deprived of food for a prolonged period. When your body goes into this mode it's incredibly painful. Olivia still carries the scars, and her ribcage has slightly deformed as a result of her body crumbling in on itself.
Last month researchers at King’s College London (along with NIHR BioResource and Beat), have launched the largest ever study into eating disorders in hopes of discovering new ways of treat the illness. The overall aim is to increase the number of those who make a full recovery, as those who make a partial recovery are more likely to relapse (full recovery rate is currently at around 20%). Additionally, as the study aims to involve over 10,000 participants, once complete, one would hope this will also lead to the creation and implementation of effective early detection and prevention methods.
If you can relate to the series and would like to connect with others who can encourage, support, or just listen then Elefriends might be worth a little peek.
Here are some other resources including some really good 24hr helplines:
Helpline: 0808 801 0677 Studentline: 0808 801 0811 Youthline: 0808 801 0711 https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/ (the eating disorder charity)