Cake Walking with Lia Schapendonk
One of my all time favorite Taj Mahal songs is Cake Walk into Town. I first heard the song in my mid teenage years when I was learning how to play guitar and loved EVERYTHING Taj! But the line in the song, “Throw your big leg over me Mama I might not feel this good again,” was one of the first times I heard a lyric with romantic…okay…sexual intentions associated with a big woman’s body. It gave me hope that some day my big legs could be loved under the covers as well.
If you have been reading my blog lately, you know that I have been writng about Love Your Body Day (October 14, 2014) through the lens of body positive Dutch artists. We have already met Susan Ruiter and Julia Woning and today I am sure you will be tickled by the positive and lovely artwork of Lia Schapendonk. When I was reviewing the answers that Ms Schapendonk so generously shared with me, I couldn’t help but think of Taj Mahal’s song, Cake Walk into Town. I thought it would be a fun multi-media body positive experience to play the song while you read my interview with Lia so I embedded the Taj track above. (Embedding stuff in blogs is a MAJOR technical accomplishment for me…so I hope you take advantage of it!)
I asked the same questions I asked Susan and Julia, and here is what Lia had to say: (Thank you to Chiel Weverling for translating from Dutch to English)
Dr. Deah: When did you realize that art was important to you as a means of expression? Was there a specific aha moment; or was it a gradual process?
Lia Schapendonk: When I was a child growing up in ‘the fifty’s’, I was always busy with ‘making stuff’. For instance I would make a woven painting with thread and a bicycle rim. It wasn’t until I was around thirty, that I went to The Academy. I qualified myself in a number of disciplines two of which are ceramics and textile arts; but essentially I see a challenge in working with many materials. And thus, for the last couple of years, next to painting, I’ve been working with felt (see www.troostenlief.nl) and mosaic.
DD: The art work you do is so beautiful, who were some artists who influenced your style?
LS: There is no direct example of an artist that inspired me in terms of style. What you see in my paintings comes from my own fantasy. I did go through an evolution since my first canvas of which I will explain further in the next question. My works, totalling about 500 now, fill themselves with more richness and detail every time. The only thing that’s been standing firm from the beginning is the colorful character that emanates from my art; sort of an extension of my personality.
DD: The shapes and sizes of the women you paint are big and beautiful and feel very positive. Has the subject of body acceptance or size acceptance been a part of your work intentionally? Why do you choose to do paintings of big curvy women?
LS: This came about by accident. About 10 years ago my good friend and I were at a beautiful old house in Ardêche, France, for a week. When I suggested that we go to a patisserie and enjoy something… She, like myself, has a bigger appearance, and didn’t feel like going. She was fearful that the ambiance would react negatively to seeing two bigger ladies, in full view, enjoying something nice. This horrific image was enough for her to blow off the idea. In reaction to that I took to the brush, the only medium available there, and sketched the two of us in an imaginary pose showing us at the patisserie with cake and all. To me this was a “joke”, a way to make the situation humorous, but it was the start of a successful series that seems to make more and more galleries and buyers happy.
DD: With the media being so obsessed with only showing thin women as beautiful and bigger women as undesirable, what made you choose to defy the media mandate and draw big women as beautiful, sexy, and competent?
LS: Because of my own ‘self esteem’ with regard to my appearance, and knowing that the opposite is what most of my fellow sufferers experience, you could call my approach provocative with an ironic character; robust ladies with a shapely bosom that enjoy life to the fullest and show that to the world without embarrassment. My mentality is surely fed by the Burgundian character of the area where I grew up: the South of Holland, Noord Braband, and specifically close to the Belgian border.
DD: Do you have any opinions about how the media depicts women’s bodies?
LS: In my vision, the image of the proposed ideal woman with the emphasis on the slim posture is too dominant. It appears as if Twiggy, (super model from the 60?s) as the ideal image is so frozen that different shapes are unimaginable. The result is that many women, and men also by the way, feel terrible in and with their body.
DD: Do you think that Holland has a more accepting attitude towards diversity of body size for women than The United States?
LS: This is a hard question for me to answer. In many TV images of the American people you may conclude that obese shapes are very accepted, they are depicted many times without a sense of shame. When talking about Dutch people, the example of my friend in the pastry shop, is no exception when it comes to train of thought of the average Dutch person. Holland’s reputation as a very liberal place made up predominantly of free-thinking individuals can best be taken with a grain of salt.
DD: Where can people find out more about your work?
LS: Of course my website but also through the galleries that represent my work. (Their contact information is also found on the site). Additional information can be found at http://www.troostenlief.nl/as well. Other than that I’m pretty active on Facebook, There I have many followers who enjoy my almost daily updates. My posts are of course laced with the creative concoctions that flow from my mind and hands…unstoppable.
And unstoppable Lia seems to be!!! I hope you enjoyed reading about Lia. I love how she used art to express her feelings about how a proposed trip to a pastry shop was thwarted because of potential weight bias. What started out as a “joke”, perhaps to cheer up her friend, resulted in a series of paintings showing big beautiful women (Dikke Dames) happily enjoying their cakes free of guilt or shame. What do you think? Do you know of any artists writers, musicians who use their creative expression to depict diversity in body positive images? Please share!!!
Til Next Time!
**OTHER NEWS!!! ON OCTOBER 25TH IN OAKLAND CALIFORNIA*** PLEASE JOIN US FOR THIS ONE DAY EVENT: NEW TOOLS OLD OPPRESSION I will be presenting along with: Sonya Renee Taylor, Performance Poet – Keynote on Weight Stigma by Dr. Deb Burgard – Diverse Experiences of Weight Stigma: A Panel moderated by Jessica Wilson – Expressive Arts Activities led by Dr. Deah Schwartz – Embodiment Explorations facilitated by Fall Ferguson – A Fat Flash Mob Experience with Juicy D. Light Location: James C. Irvine Foundation Conference Center, 353 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612 *Registration deadline: Monday, Oct. 20, 2014*