As humans, our cognitive self-awareness grants us the unique knowledge that we exist in a specific time and place, and therefore also the fact that one day, we will cease to exist. We are on this earth for a limited amount of time—we know death will come. How do we manage the heaviness of that inevitability?
We collect beautiful things, we decorate. We invest in the world around us to hopefully leave behind something lasting. We sustain our faith in a cultural worldview that injects our sense of reality with order, meaning, and permanence. Constantly on the brink of realizing the fragility of our existence, we lean on structures, rule sets, and institutions to bolster our view of human life as significant and eternal. When reminded of our own mortality, we tend to enforce these cultural standards on others, often mercilessly: if they are the ones failing to comply, maybe death will come for them instead of us. The power we hold over ourselves and others fills the void of our powerlessness over death.
Thinness, perhaps one of our most prevailing cultural hierarchies, and its hyper-association with health forces fat people to carry our societal fears of death. By avoiding fatness, we are under the impression that thinness offers us a window to immortality and transcendence.
Nodding to the dramatics of 16th-century Dutch Protestant Vanitas still life paintings, The Worm at the Core employs engorged, sensuous fruits and casts of cut crystal to invoke the pastimes we use to distract ourselves from the terror of death. Gelatin, a material stemming from death itself, acts as a surrogate for the sumptuous lipids of the fat body. As time passes, these forms will give in to the instability and powerlessness of the material, ending up a shell of how they began.
Katie Rauth (b.1992) is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Chicago, IL. Through sculpture, video & performance, their current work plays the intersection of fatness and queerness, exploring issues of fat femininity and the subversive potential of material excess. Rauth holds a BFA from Arcadia University and is a current MFA candidate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Email or direct message @DavidSalkin on Instagram for more information, and to make an appointment for this show and the other shows at the 1709 W Chicago Avenue gallery building.
David Salkin Creative is a custom surface and textile-design studio that hosts a diverse exhibition program, located in West Town, Chicago.