A joint exhibition of work from The Weight of Expectation, a new comic exploring how our culture stigmatises larger body sizes, and The Big O Project, a photographic study exploring the effects of obesity stigma on children, is running at Christmas Steps Gallery from 17 to 21 July.
The comic The Weight of Expectation, or WoE, tells the story of how stigma associated with bodyweight and size gets under the skin and is felt in the flesh. It’s the result of art collective Act With Love’s collaboration with illustrator Jade Sarson to visualise the research of sociologist Oli Williams.
Screen prints from The Weight of Expectation will be on show alongside a selection of work from photographer Abbie Trayler-Smith’s The Big O Project, an intimate study of the children behind the obesity statistics. In 2014, Abbie won second prize in the World Press Photo Staged Portraits category for Shannon, a photo from The Big O Project. A book of the photographs from the project will be published next year.
Drawing on the same themes of stigma and weight, The Weight of Expectation is based on the experiences of people who attended NHS-subsidised weight-loss groups in one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England.
Jade is a Lincoln-based illustrator and comic artist whose style is a fusion of British roots with Japanese influences, combining digital and traditional techniques. In 2013 she was nominated for Best Emerging Talent in the British Comic Awards, and in 2014 won the Myriad Editions First Graphic Novel competition with For the Love of God, Marie!.
Oli’s research focuses on health inequalities and social change. Currently at the University of Leicester’s SAPPHIRE (Social Science APPlied to Healthcare Improvement REsearch) group, he held the NIHR CLAHRC West Dan Hill Fellowship in Health Equity from 2016-17. He is a co-founder of Act With Love, along with his brother Joe, and recently spoke about his research and the WoE project on the popular Don’t Salt My Game podcast hosted by Laura Thomas.
The exhibition will be on display from 17 to 21 July at the Christmas Steps Gallery, Bristol BS1 5BS. The work can be seen from Christmas Steps when the gallery is closed, but the space will be open 11am-7pm, when limited edition prints will be available to buy, with all money going back to supporting the WoE project. Free copies of the comic will be available for all visitors.
There will be a special launch event on 19 July where Oli will give a talk about the project and chair a panel discussion between 6.30-7.30pm. The panel will include the comic artist Jade and photographer Abbie. This will be followed by a signing session where Jade and Oli can sign copies of The Weight of Expectation.
WoE was funded by the Wellcome Trust, NIHR CLAHRC West, NIHR CLAHRC East Midlands, Attenborough Arts Centre and the University of Leicester.