Visual art is perhaps one of the most powerful mediums of abstract communication. Queen’s fine art student Katherine Boxall hopes for her newest visual-art project Bite Your Tongue to speak to audiences on changing the way society looks at female beauty and expression.
With a specialization in oil painting, this fourth-year artist has learned throughout her time at Queen’s that it’s important to be critical of your own work.
“Everyone who comes to Queen’s fine arts were the best in their class,” Boxall said. “Then you get here, and suddenly you’re like everyone else. My friend and I were called ‘calendar artists’ in first year, meaning we made images so dull they could be in a calendar.
“Going from that to doing large paintings of uncomfortable, provocative images, and not receiving that feedback has been an experience,” she said.
Boxall was the Journal’s Editorials Illustrator in 2013-14.
She has worked up the bravery to paint pieces with more personal meaning to her and adapting her style in ways that complement these big changes. When she started here, Boxall would paint pieces distant from her identity, and this gradually changed.
“When images are close and more important to you, you’re reluctant to release them and you have a different complex with them,” she said. “You don’t want to slack off on it — it has to be your best work. You’re reluctant to release them unless you can really stand behind them.”
Boxall’s latest work Bite Your Tongue is a piece that speaks volumes about that statement. It depicts Boxall in plain underwear, lying against a white background with one hand hooked around her mouth, pulling it to the side.
The painting, which is based off an unedited photo of Boxall, is raw and portrays her in a vulnerable, natural state.
Bite Your Tongue, according to Boxall, is a reflection on society’s fascination with the female body and the ideas of beauty that are attached to it. It also reflects the idea that women.
“I wanted to talk about that objectification of the female image in general,” the artist said. “I took a provocative genders course that blew my mind and made me really upset about gender issues on campus. I think every Queen’s girl has a sense of pressure with her appearance and desirability.”
The painting was also created on the basis of women often feeling as if they have to gauge the consequences of their words before they say them, hence the name of the piece.
The artist has pushed herself to present imagery and ideas in a way that make it easier, and more interesting, for people to connect with these ideas and project their feelings onto.
“Bite Your Tongue for me is kind of about the struggle I feel as a girl where sometimes I feel like when you speak out about something you’re trapped, which is why I’m trapped in the canvas.”
Boxall spoke about the extreme frustration she has with the objectification of the female body and being angry about the pressure of having to feel as if you have to fit into a mold.
“I think there’s a huge amount of pressure in art and in general to make beautiful things,” she said. “I want to make ugly things sometimes, and it’s scary. But that’s what really pushed me to paint that painting of myself because I’m ugly in it, and you know, I liked that.”
Boxall plans to carry out this theme in her future work and push her boundaries.
“I think what I found out about this project was that using your own body gives you a lot of authority to say what you want and create imagery that’s yours — you can control the discourse,” she said.
“If I was pushing my limits making this one, they’ve become even bigger and for the next one I want to push them even further.”
The reception for Boxall’s work is this Saturday at 6 p.m., and her work will be displayed at the Union Gallery from Nov. 27-Jan. 17.
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