From Serendip

Measure for Measure:
An Artistic Exploration of Eating Disorders, Body Image, and the Self


Information about this exhibit is provided to the right. Please be sure to read Viewing the Exhibit. All images are accessible form the Image Index below, as well as from duplicates of this index on each image page.

Image Index

blu Es
Broken Dreams
Cold and Distant Mother
Don't Play With Me
En Treat
Flagrante Bello
Hungry Heart
In God's Ear
Past, Present, Future
She's Size Zero
Sleeping Nymph
Sore Thumb
Throwing Up
Under Control
Why Perfect Perfection?
Winter Coats
Woman Warrior

Additional Material

About the Artist

Janna Stern is a West Coast artist for whom "serendipity is a delightful ally in the creative process". Working from her own photographs and found materials, she assembles digital images "to take risks. I follow no rules, explore continuously ... Most of my work centers on women's issues". A rural midwesterner by birth, Janna's art draws as well on medical training, motherhood, life in southern California, and "a growing dissatisfaction with institutionalized concepts, theories, and cures for society's maladies".

Background to the Exhibit

Several years ago, Janna discovered that images she was creating at the time seemed to evoke strong reactions from women with eating disorders. Hoping to encourage greater open conversation about and understanding of this serious and widespread problem, Janna created a collection titled "Measure for Measure: An Artistic Exploration of the Mythology of Eating Disorders which was exhibited on college and university campuses.

Janna also wrote to Paul Grobstein at Serendip, and in an exchange of correspondence the two quickly found not only a shared concern about eating disorders but, more generally, a shared interest in the use of visual images as a way to explore and share understandings of the real and important differences between individual selves. They jointly conceived this exhibit as both a contribution to more public discussion of the internal "selfness" of eating disorders and an experiment in trying to promote interpersonal understanding by way of visual images.

Viewing the Exhibit

The exhibit is organized so that visitors can compare their own reactions to Janna's images with the reactions of women who have self-identified as being or having been troubled by eating disorders. Individual images are accessed by clicking on titles in the image index to the left. To the right on each image is a link which will add to the page comments on that image collected from women with eating disorders. The comments, presented anonymously, were collected by Janna and Paul from visitors to Janna's campus shows, acquaintances, and people associated with eating disorder websites. The sample is small, and we make no presumption either that it is representative of women with eating disorders nor that there is to be expected any homogeneity in such reactions and comments. Our immediate objective is simply to encourage viewers to appreciate differences between selves, both in relation to eating disorders and more generally.

A CAVEAT. Different people DO have different reactions to these images. They are evocative, and may, for some people, bring up troubling feelings. While we think having and examining one's own feelings is in general healthy and productive, we also think it important that individuals be aware of risks and decide for themselves whether to take them.

Extending the Exhibit ... and Beyond

Since this exhibit is about helping individuals understand each other better, visitors can usefully contribute to it by leaving their thoughts about the exhibit as a whole or individual images in an on-line forum area. While you can do so anonymously if you need to, it would be useful to others to know something of your own background.

One might like to have a larger sample of reactions from women with eating disorders. One might like also to compare reactions of other groups of people. If you are interested in such explorations and would like to help us make them a part of this exhibit, please drop us an email.

Finally, we hope that this exhibit will in fact contribute to greater open discusion, understanding, and ultimately alleviation of the suffering associated with eating disorders. To learn more about these, and to participate in ongoing conversations elsewhere, we have provided a list of Web Resources About Eating Disorders. Comments about this list and suggestions for additions to it are welcome.

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