International Journal of Art & Design Education

Body-Building: A Female Student's Use of the Transitional Spaces of a Painting Degree Course to Explore her Sexual Desirability and Aesthetics as a ‘Grotesque’ Female Body (pages 55–67)

Volume 32.1   2013



Whilst a part of the fine art degree course is about teaching technical skills and learning from tutor/peer group crits, a larger part is about the facilitation of a ‘safe’ and structured space in which students gain the confidence to experiment with personal ideas, to hone a self-critical reflection and understand who they are as individuals, before being cast out into the world as ‘artist’. In this article I examine the thought processes and decision-making of one undergraduate female painting student. For this student, who struggled to find her own ‘grotesque’ female body image in the canon of art historical works or contemporary popular media, the spaces of the painting degree course created a frame for possible enactments of identity and desire, as well as for playing with roles and practices. Through a mix of interviews with the student, viewing her visual work and written narratives, I analyse how she was able to carve out a space for her visual representation within the institutional frame. My analysis reveals how this student uses the transitional spaces of the degree course to develop creative strategies through which to explore her sexual desirability and aesthetic self. As an individual who felt marginalised from the visual realm of the ‘body beautiful’, the degree course offered an important refuge where she could examine how she felt about her own body and develop a confidence and character to present her body to the world.