Commentary by Aurora San Miguel
Aly’s choice of material is highly purposeful.
All readymades are purposeful materials rendered useless in a gallery, but with its displacement inside the institution, a new way of seeing emerges.
Fat suits, although worn under clothing so as to conceal their prosthesis, function for the wearer to assume a faux fat body. A fat suit with no body to wear thus eliminates its functionality. Six suits, each set in light to medium beige tones emphasizing different proportions, levitate off the gallery wall on metal hangers. Aly makes note of the conditions with which these objects may be worn and the identity inhabited by the wearer in type-written tags attached to each form.
Your DUFF, your mama, & your auntie
The mall cop, the villain, & the mammy
For comedy or for pity
Don’t worry, it’s only temporary
The tags denote no monetary value for the costumes.
For many of these characters, their faux fatness was a phase. A dark, disappointing, depressing, & desolate phase that was just a stepping stone in their character development. Their faux fatness was a thing they overcame, they conquered, & came out the other side as thin, attractive, successful members of society. If the faux fatness wasn’t temporary for the sake of character development, it was a thick layer on the cake of nefarious & pessimistic characters we are convinced not to like, to laugh at, to be scared of, to question, to feel bad for, or be annoyed with. If & when a fat actor was hired, their entire character’s purpose or development lies strictly & obsessively within the confines of their fatness.
Writing, especially naming, feels like a crucial component to engaging with Aly’s work. In her studio, I am shown an object titled For Your Entertainment. The 5 pound dimpled orange-yellow fat model rests on a white stand labeled with several porn categories. These listed categories, like the other texts in the show, are appropriations of dictating language — common phrases used festishistically, derogatorily, or as a means of exclusion.
The appropriation of text for the vinyl piece, Violating Community Guidelines, is specific to the censorship of actual fat bodies in mainstream media, contemporary art institutions included. It is to the same scale as the paintings & sculpture beside it, taking up similar wall-space in a rather large room. It takes up the same space its peers were allowed. The phrase, “This image has been removed for depicting excessive skin,” is verbatim (phrase, font, spacing), an excuse provided by a social media platform for removing images of fat bodies, under the guise of violating their community guidelines. This removal is not because of a depiction of nudity, violence, hate speech, etc. — it is the censoring of fat bodies simply for existing.
Her extracted lines are treated much like the readymade — materials coaxed from their origins and set within the gallery context. Here, the material is derived from social media, setting up a comparison between the policies that regulate who is allowed and where.
The most fascinating point of departure for their response for me was the phrase “depicting excessive skin.” A rather ambiguous & somewhat broad excuse, when put into context means actual, visible fat bodies. The piece Fat Suits is a critique of the replacement of actual, visible fat bodies, whereas Violating Community Guidelines is about the erasure of actual, visible fat bodies.
The inclusion of the vinyl in the show makes a very direct statement while the text included in the tagging of each fat suit, while short, is much more contemplative and speaks to Aly’s predilection for poetics. The scales of both works, particularly the choice of vinyl text scaled to the size of the adjacent paintings in the gallery, calls to attention the artist’s use of labor. Aly is a skilled seamstress hailing from a lineage of dressmakers. Although that detail is not directly represented for the consumption of the institution, the work nonetheless speaks. Saying, and what the work is saying, is steadfastly its core.