Jessica Ward: Eating Disorders

Ward’s art work is inspired by eating disorders, which she herself has struggled with with since adolescence. Working exclusively in the drawing medium, she uses graphite, color pencils and chalk pastels on paper.

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Born in Agana, Guam in 1982.


My current body of work is a series of drawings done in graphite, color pencil, water color and chalk pastel on archival board and paper. I am addressing the issue of often hidden neuroses of eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Compulsive Over Eating and Body Dysmorphic Disorder. In some of my drawings I explore the start and cause of eating disorders in child hood and it’s long lasting affects through the adult life. I use my own personal experiences to flesh out stories in each drawing. I place symbols that embellish themes of fetishes with the body. The subjects are abject female figures that are grotesque or incomplete. In these figures I include a sense of body dissatisfaction and thus showing body image coping patterns through sealing or idealizing the body. Hair plays an important role in my work, it is my visual representation of the multidimensional eating disorder. When hair grows it starts from inside our skin then grows out like ideas and emotion, this is where I give it a life of it’s own as a metaphor. For example, so much about eating disorders has to do with feelings of control and by cutting hair that is a symbol of a loss of power or control. Hair evokes a long history of symbolism from around the world which I often reference. My drawings have almost a trichophilia for hair. The cat represents regressive fantasies. Regression is a form of retreat, going back to a time to when the person felt safer. I view them as an escape, craving of their simple lifestyle. They are often observing and appear to be loyal and non judgmental companions. In allot of my work I draw on pastel or kitsch colors this is a reference to childhood and innocence. I often use pink because pink encourages action, motion, courage and passion. Pink is viewed as gentle and appropriate color for healing and can be used to relieve depression. I use these colors for their comfort or warmth in juxtaposition to disturbing subject matter or imagery. The use of patterns literally mean patterns that eating disordered individuals often take on in their manic routines. Another symbol I use are spirals, like a downward spiral into a cycle one feels as if they cannot escape from. Forced to repeat the same self destructive acts over and over again. My work is an intended catharsis for the viewer, evoking overwhelming feelings, resulting in restoration and renewal in oneself.

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