Ness Lee's billboard-sized illustration takes on the meaning of feeling comfortable in your own skin.
BY: Ness Lee
INSTALLATION: Dec. 1, 2016.
LOCATION: King and Spadina
Body positivity takes on a heightened meaning in the hands of artist Ness Lee. For World AIDS Day last December, Lee was commissioned to create a billboard-sized illustration in her inimitable style: plump, fleshy bodies locked in a tender tangle, cast in black and white.
The Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research saw an ally in Lee through her body of work, which acts as a provocative counterweight to conventional representations of sexuality. In place of images of dolled-up, pencil-thin women, Lee gives us visual representations of women—and men—in “unflattering” poses.
With this project, what it ultimately means to feel unabashedly comfortable in your own skin takes on a new sense of urgency. To an extent, it draws parallels between the inner turmoil people face in relation to their body, both through the impossible pursuit of the ideal physique and in living openly as HIV-positive.
Embracing all body types isn’t just limited to celebrating the diversity of appearances. But it also extends to supporting people who contend with health and body-image issues.
“I really wanted to emphasize togetherness and the need to support each other,” Lee says, adding that we have to be sensitive to the experiences of others.
Her billboard piece is a clever use of a medium that often propagates unattainable beauty standards, which puts us at odds with ourselves and one another. It’s also an unfamiliar sight in a streetscape cluttered with ads so removed from reality. More importantly, it draws attention to the experiences of people living with HIV/AIDS, elevating our awareness beyond once-a-year demonstrations of solidarity.