is a documentary project by noted contemporary photographer Lauren Greenfield on the subject of eating disorders. Greenfield followed and photographed a group of women in treatment at the Renfrew Center in Florida, producing an exhibition of 54 color photographs and a documentary film about the women and their experiences. The exhibition Thin immerses the viewer in the world of Renfrew and the lives of the women who live there, as they grapple with this serious, secretive, and life-threatening illness. Interviews with the women accompany their portraits, allowing them to tell their own stories, and the installation also includes facsimiles of diaries in which four of the women chart the ups and downs of their time at Renfrew.

Thin grew out of an earlier body of work, Girl Culture, which focuses on the image-obsession of women of all ages in the United States, and the deep effect of popular culture on their lives. A selection of 32 images from Girl Culture will be displayed in an adjacent gallery to provide a context for Thin and expand on the themes of the show. SCMA is pleased to announce that 58 photographs from this important project have been placed on loan to SCMA as promised gifts from the collections of Susan and Peter MacGill and anonymous friends of the Museum.  Thin and Girl Culture will launch “Women of the Year,” a yearlong series of exhibitions at SCMA that will explore the range of women’s experience in art. Please click here for more information on exhibitions in the series.

While both Thin and Girl Culture deal with women’s relationships to their bodies, they are, at heart, very different. As Greenfield explains:

“[Working on Thin] I came to understand that [eating disorders are] far removed from the world of popular culture, vanity, materialism, and self-esteem issues that have been the thematic preoccupations of my prior work.

Although the reasons people develop eating disorders are complex and individual, it is clear that they function as a coping mechanism, like drugs, alcohol, or cutting—used to numb out intolerable emotional pain and experience a sense of control. The fact that this particular coping strategy is so prevalent in our time is a logical consequence of a society obsessed with the concept of an ideal body.”

The Museum would like to thank the following individuals and organizations who provided resources and advice in preparation for these exhibitions:

Jessica Bacal, Women’s Narratives of Success Project, Smith College
Sarah Billian, ‘12J, Active Minds
Sue Briggs, Women’s Narratives of Success Project, Smith College
Patrick Connelly, Assistant Director of the Campus Center for Student Activities
Patricia DiBartolo, Associate Professor of Psychology, Smith College
Five-College Eating Disorders Task Force
Members of the SCMA Teacher Advisory Committee
Emily Nagoski, Director of Wellness Education, Smith College
Andrea Rosen, ’09, Nolen Arts Lounge Assistant
Catherine Sanderson, Associate Professor of Psychology, Amherst College
Smith College Counseling Services
Smith College Office of Educational Outreach and their “Partners in Health” Group
Walden Behavioral Care, Northampton
Jennifer Walters, Dean of Religious Life, Smith College

February is Eating Disorder Awareness Month


Thin is dedicated to the women of Thin and the memory of Polly Ann Williams, 1974-2008.

The exhibition was curated by the artist and Trudy Wilner Stack, and was organized by The Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future, Dallas, Texas and Greenfield/Evers, LLC. Presentation of Thin and Girl Culture at SCMA is supported by the Tryon Associates, the Members of the Museum, and the Museum of Art Program Fund.

All images on this site are ©Lauren Greenfield/VII

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