From Baroque artist Peter Rubens to the world-renowned Fernando Botero, curvy women have been painted in art, encouraging a conversation about the need to celebrate body inclusivity. Soho’s contemporary art gallery, The Hole, has compiled a collection of some of the most recent renditions of powerful, voluptuous women by artists for their new group exhibition, “EXTRA,” hoping to contribute to this much-needed dialogue. According to the curator of the show, “Without focusing too much on ‘extra large,’ the exhibition is more interested in just ‘extra.’ A slang term in the past few years for being too much, over-the-top; maybe trying too hard, or just too in-your-face.” The women lining the polka-dot colored walls exude confidence as they command the room with their presence and show off their sensuous nature.
One of the emerging artists featured is Spanish-born Cristina BanBan. Based in London, she creates images of large figures doing mundane things like watching TV or shaving their legs but with bright colors and expressive faces, the better to tell a story. Her work, ‘Las chicas en la playa’ is displayed alongside artists like Jansson Stegner, whose confident blonde enjoys a breakfast fit for a queen. Francine Spiegel’s and Taylor McKimens’s women pose confidently nearby, splattered with an array of different colors.
The plump women painted in this gallery are also shown engaging in a wide range of activities, which portray them as daring, multi-faceted and unapologetic. Misaki Kawai’s women stretches playfully for aerobics; meanwhile, Koichi Sato’s in-sync body builders look robust and enviable as they flex. Additionally, Mexican-Korean artist Monica Kim Garza’s women appear happy and carefree as they ride horses, wrestle each other, smoke, and even play tennis in a series of paintings.
The exhibition comes even more to life as some artists stretch the perception of reality. Humorous artist Eric Yahnker depicts his woman with three heads: one on her neck and two where her breasts should be. Gina Beavers’s over-the-top, plump green lips with different sports balls coming out of them ooze sensuality. Additionally, George Rouy’s nude of a woman singing looks empowered and seemingly unfettered by who might be staring at her figure.
The vibrant and hyper-feminine exhibition culminates with Colombia’s most iconic living artist, Fernando Botero. His style of “Boterismo” perfectly complements the exhibit in its exaggeration, a key topic amongst all the works in the exhibit.
Botero’s piece “Society Woman” gives a perspective on an upper-class woman in an elegant red dress. With matching clutch in hand, the woman stares seductively to the side. The gallery also presents works from Todd James, Vanessa Prager, Charlie Billingham, Rebecca Morgan, and Jonathan Chapline.
Regardless of how varied every painting is, one thing is clear: every women’s personality transcends the canvas and impacts the viewer. The exhibit serves as a reminder that beauty standards should not be limited to an unattainable petite size because these are unrepresentative of the entire female population. Instead, all body sizes should be celebrated equally. “EXTRA” achieves its goal of showing voluminous women as more complex, sensual beings, proving that “extra” is beautiful as well.