Unintended Consequences

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June 1, 2011
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Kate Alkarni

I began painting furiously about nine years ago while in rehab for heroin addiction. I was 23 years old, and I had rediscovered a yen for art. Even strung out on heroin for five years, I hadn’t forgotten everything about myself or reality. Each painting I created that first year was unplanned — emotionally raw and swiftly executed, in a matter of hours. Over the past years, as I’ve become more thinking and feeling as a person, so has my voice as an artist.

My current work includes a series of photographs about the women in my life. The piece “Ill” is a photograph of a friend of mine who suffers from anorexia. A meal consists of a ketchup packet mixed with a cup of hot water, which she jokingly refers to as “tomato soup.” The photograph “This is my plan” captures another friend — someone who suffers from body dimorphic disorder. Because of her illness, she lifts up her shirt to reveal an emaciated, tattooed torso.

Here’s what disturbs me. I took these photographs in an attempt to show my friends that they were too thin. But then, honestly, I thought to myself, “They look great.” I even took it a step further and decided to go on a diet, thinking I needed to lose weight. I had been keeping on an extra 30 pounds to prove to women that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, like a Dove soap campaign.

Now, I’ve become my photographs. I weigh 116 pounds and wear an extra-extra-small. I know it’s crazy, and I am struggling to stop dieting.

This was not my original plan when I started this photography project, unless it was subconscious. So I feel like a beautiful failure. I think it might be time to change media again.

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Kate Alkarni, known also as Kate McKinnney, lives with her husband Ali and their three Siamese cats in Los Angeles. Her career as an artist began at age fifteen, when she wrote and starred in Common Bonds, a film shown at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. Since then, Alkarni has studied film, fashion, and art around the world, and she has become a prominent member of the arts community. Her work has been shown at the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, the Platt Gallery, and many other small galleries. Primarily a visual artist, she still works as a screenwriter and director, and she is currently directing a one-man show for comedian Joey Diaz.

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