Art Series: Crawling

When I first started to get body hair, it was the summer before I started 6th grade. My mother never gave me any typical “coming of age” talks, so when things started to change with my body I was pretty confused and embarrassed. Can you image 12 year old me looking down and being like,

“What the f***????” I didn’t think I was supposed to have hair there??”

I remember being ashamed to go to the pool, get dressed in front of people, or wear a bathing suit with fear of showing my new unwanted body hair.

I started puberty before all of my friends and I’m an only child so, honestly, I didn’t really understand what the hell was happening to me. All I did was tried my best to hide it. I begged my mother to let me shave my legs after being made fun of because I was the only girl left among my friends that hadn’t. Along with body hair came my period, boobs, and braces. What a great way to enter into middle school, right? This story is all too common and relatable to most adolescent girls yet I still felt completely alone at the same time. I was entering the world of teenagers and middle school, and here I was in this body I didn’t even recognize. Most people fear what they don’t understand, but how was I supposed to expect anyone to understand or accept my new body if I couldn’t?  Turns out, middle school isn’t a walk in the park for a confused girl who just hit puberty. I still believe to this day that middle school girls and boys are hell sent.

The truth is, people have this skewed idealization of the women body. Between television, social media, and especially pornography, a woman is expected to be shaved, skinny, and flawless. This exact idea and behavior was reinforced through every single one of my high school and college boyfriends. Until, finally, a year ago I moved away from the toxic town I grew up in. I moved away for all the people who were constantly telling me to not be me. It was only then that I finally realized these “imperfections” are actually normal, and I began surrounding myself with people who were advocates for body positivity and unconditional love and support.

This past April I was asked to be featured in my first art show. I spent months preparing and I had a lot of really nice pieces I was so excited to display. One day before the show I was looking at all of my pieces and I just felt like something was missing. I really wanted to make an impact since it would be my first opportunity to show myself to the art world. That’s when I came up with the series: Crawling.

The concept of the piece came from my uncomfortable experiences with hitting puberty and the transition from childhood to teenage years to adulthood. The series depicts three drawings of the parts of my body I had the most trouble accepting... covered in ants. Two of the three drawling represented my body hair. I used actual pictures of me and, by the time was done, I felt a huge connection to the series. It truly was me.

When the day of the art show finally arrived, I greeted guests with the biggest smile and was just absolutely thrilled to finally have the opportunity to show my work. As the night went on, I noticed a reoccurring thing happening. The series was supposed to make people uncomfortable and I definitely succeeded. I got a lot of criticism about the series the entire night. As people viewed it though, I began to see the faces my ex boyfriends made when I accidentally forgot to shave, the faces kids made in middle school after I got braces; the same face I made when I noticed my body hair for the first time.  

It was almost like finally closing a bad chapter of my life. While all the familiar awkward glances and uncomfortable stares transitioned from my work, to me, and then back again, I realized none of it mattered. It became clear that even the “artist”, the “forward thinkers”, the select group of people of that I expected to embrace the natural state of a woman’s beauty, still didn’t understand my strife. But none of it mattered. I stood there proud. Proud of my message. Proud of my work. Proud of my body. Proud of it all.

Kaitlyn Caramela (she/her),  is a 20-year-old Pittsburgh based Artist as well as a Horticultural Therapist and Floral Designer. See more of her awesome work here