about natalie: Natalie Wardle is an emerging visual artist/photographer from Manchester, England. She graduated with a BA in Photography from Manchester School of Art and has been exhibited across England including the Atkinson Art Gallery, Southport apart of Lynda Morris curated exhibition ‘Modern History’ as well as being apart of Arts unfold artist residency ‘Naked state’ held in Canada.
tell us about yourself and your art practice: My art practice looks at how women constrict their bodies to fit in with society’s ideal body types. I use shape wear and tape that is placed over nipples to both cover and repress their form. I’ve been exhibited across England including the Atkinson Art Gallery, Southport apart of Lynda Morris curated exhibition ‘Modern History’ and from being exhibited with my piece ‘Control Pant Symphony’. This gave me the push to keep making art work on this topic, as there’s a real buzz around body positivity right now. So, highlighting rather silly unnecessary beauty trends in my art work and making a humorous connection really formed a connection with people.
After making art work on the topic apart of my ‘control’ series, I was chosen for an artist residency in a naturist park in Canada. Here I explored nuances between a “real” and naked body, in contrast to a “fake” and controlled body. I was new to public nudity so I started my process by learning to be comfortable and loving my body through my experience in the Bare Oaks naturist community. This involve mingling with the community to understand naturists thoughts regarding their bodies and how they worked towards being body-positive. From this I have made my two new main pieces ‘Pant Fling’ and ‘Control vs Nature’ .
I feel like I have a new way of thinking about the body, that we don’t need clothing, make-up and sugary to feel beautiful. We live in a time where the media is making us feel bad about our body, and that we need to manipulate it to fit in the ‘hot new celebrity trend’. On social media, we have a lot of body shaming, people are hiding behind computers and shaming people for not looking a particular way. I feel like all we need is positive words and being positive to each other in order to achieve positivity in the way we look. We shouldn’t feel the need to contour our faces, wear control underwear or have surgery done. I’m trying to promote this through art and if it helps change the views of just one person, I will feel successful in what I make visually.
what inspired this exhibit: The inspiration behind most of my art pieces is my own experience. The whole control underwear obsession came from seeing my mother wearing them. I bought them as I thought it was on trend and in order to be positive about my body. I then realized that its just another way of making a profit from women by shaming them into buying products they think they need to feel good. I took the experience and turned it to a whole art series, taking it to a naturist park and asking the locals what they thought of the products (they just laughed). I created two videos of flinging my pants away in a rebellious way. This all came from the naturists thoughts on the pants and how I should be flinging them away as we don’t need them.
‘pass me the silicone’
tell us about the creative process for this exhibit: The process to me is trial and error. When at Bare Oaks, I was in the woods making a stupid amount of work. I’ve always had the idea of having a large group of women of all ages coming together and being empowered. This idea created the piece called ‘Control vs Nature’. Its a performance piece inspired by my interactions with the naturist community along with my current themes of working with control pants. I see control pants as conforming societies ‘ideal’ bodily form and posture, to then encouraging more extreme measures of plastic surgery that permanently sculpt fat and flesh. In this piece, I filmed a group of women, ages 22 – 79, who have no acting experience and little direction to react to the control pants and see there personalities rebelling against societies ideas. The art direction they got is to come to a naturist setting wearing shape wear which has been influenced by the media, and to rebel against the ‘ideal’ constructed body. They walked into nature as free women from the control.
The empowerment we all felt after by ‘flinging’ our control pants into nature was the feeling of being free from constrictions. I want this film to be represented in an uplifting way for women, coming together and freeing themselves of the pressures from beauty trends, and to walk off being positive of their body.
My work was criticized by another artist as they felt it was more empowering when the piece was performed in film. This inspired ‘Pant Fling’. I took their criticism of making the piece funny, and used repetition of catapulting control pants across the woods with recorded bass guitar and drum rolls as humourous sound.
how does this topic relate to today’s society? I feel as this relates to mainly women due to all the pressures of conforming to the ‘ideal body type’.
We’re constantly on the go to improve ourselves – to fit trends, weather this is the trend of having bigger boobs, lips, bum etc. We are also feeling the pressures of the media’s influences. We’re not just looking up to celebrities in beauty magazines, but we have bloggers with social media fame telling us how to look good, what’s on trend and what products to buy.
It’s crazy the world we are living in, that we’re all in competition with ourselves to look good.
who influences your art practice? I mainly get influenced by the media and social media. I look for trends and whats ‘in fashion’ to enhance the body, then turn it into a mad art piece promoting real body positivity. As for artists, I’m a massive fan of Sarah Lucas, she’s pretty bad ass. I also get inspiration from Marina Abramovic, Yoko Ono, Pipilotti Rist.
tell us about your residency experience and at Bare Oaks naturist community. Attending Bare Oaks was my first experience with public nudity so as you can all imagine getting the flight alone to Canada from Manchester was pretty nerve wrecking. As soon as I got there and actually took my clothes off I felt pretty comfortable. I attended rather late at night and my body clock was out of it so it wasn’t until I woke up the next day I could fully process where I was and the fact is was full blown naked! After that first day I fully adjusted and embraced my naked body, and the fact that Bare Oaks wasn’t clothing optional helped me with adjusting as everyone was completely in the nude.
The one thing that surprised me wasn’t the fact that I became comfortable with being naked so quickly, but it was how safe I felt.
I never felt as though I was being looked at in a sexual manor or being judged like I would when wearing clothing. It made me think of the relationship between the naked body and clothing differently, how clothing can make a situation sexual and how the naked body doesn’t. Myself and the artist had lots of conversations about this and was rather open to how we was all feeling at the time.
The one thing that surprised me wasn’t the fact that I became comfortable with being naked so quickly, but it was how safe I felt. I never felt as though I was being looked at in a sexual manor or being judged like I would when wearing clothing. It made me think of the relationship between the naked body and clothing differently, how clothing can make a situation sexual and how the naked body doesn’t. Myself and the artist had lots of conversations about this and was rather open to how we was all feeling at the time.
When I told my friends that I was attending a naturist park they firstly thought how it was going to be sexual or that I was going to end up in a situation where I felt uncomfortable. I felt as though everyone was getting by with their day to day life, but with no clothes on. It was rather amusing the times myself and a fellow artist would have to leave Bare Oaks in her car to get some food, extra art supplies or alcohol (yes naturists love a good drink round the fire!) as we had to put our clothes on to go to the nearest town. We felt as though we were being naughty putting our clothes on and that wearing clothes just wasn’t the norm. It was amazing how much we all adjusted to being naked and how comfortable we all became. For a lot of the artists, it was our first experience doing this.
‘pass me the silicone’
The experience as a whole was life changing. I now have become a lot more confident with my body and have never been as confident before as when I was at Bare Oaks as well as it changes the way I look at others around me. In such a short span of time of (10 days), I became so close to all the artists and have made friends for life. As well, the Bare Oaks community was the most welcoming place I’ve ever been. Everyone was so wonderful and made me feel like I was at home. Visit www.nataliewardle.com