Leah Macdonald’s art exhibit offers a different spin on body image.
In her black, curvaceous dress, showing off her tattooed arms, Leah Macdonald stood in Old City’s Wexler Gallery for her photography and mixed media exhibit,
“In My Body.” Macdonald, who was at the gallery for First Friday, is on a mission to redefine the meaning of beauty.
“Exploring women with my lens brings me to a place of curiosity and the unknown,” Macdonald said.
The show’s works, which span the last 20 years, explore the natural beauty of the female body. The display celebrates the diversity and beauty of the female form, while engaging in thought provoking ideas of self-perception, body image and human emotion.
The exhibit was inspired by Philadelphia in the 1990s as well as studios and warehouses in San Francisco, Macdonald’s travels in Europe and present-day Philadelphia.
Macdonald’s pieces silently sing the tale of womanhood, telling stories through still frames of captured life and fleeting human emotion.
“It was not hard to get women who wanted to be photographed because they trusted my love for what I do, and this brought a sense of comfort,” said MacDonald, whose biggest inspiration was Michael Biello and Dan Martin’s song “In My Body.”
Macdonald’s photography journey began at age 16. After she took her first photo, she said she knew that she was destined to do it as her life’s work. Later, Macdonald – who is currently a photography professor at the Philadelphia Art Institute – attended the San Francisco Art Institute to earn her B.A. in photography and eventually earned her master’s degree in photography from the California College of Arts.
Art advocate and curator of “In My Body” Lis Kalorgris said she believes the exhibit expands beyond the walls of the Wexler Gallery. Kalorgris has worked with
Martin, Biello and director and chorographer Melanie Stewart to promote the theme of the show through song, dance, performance, round-table discussion, workshops, a documentary film and more.
“‘In My Body’ hopes to promote acceptance and love for our bodies as they are,” Kalogris said.
“A stained photograph and a ripped corner speak of life’s lessons,” Macdonald added. “Each mistake is ultimately important to me. My work reflects my true self and hints to my flaws, as I bond my insight with compassion.”
Through her photographs of women, Macdonald said she hopes to redefine the meaning of the cookie-cutter definition of beauty.
Critics, however, debated questions like “Is feminism relevant in our society?” and “Is self-esteem even a prominent issue?” as they observed the exhibit.
“It’s beautiful – here you have women of all different ages and races,” said Till Manthey, a visitor and nursing student at the Community College of Philadelphia.“It’s very brave and daring. There are different body types, and it’s all very vulnerable.”
“My work is a dialogue between my imagination, my curiosity, my imperfections and my desires,” Macdonald said.
The “In My Body” exhibit will be on display until Dec. 31 inside the Wexler Gallery at 201 N. Third St.
Priscilla Ward can be reached at email@example.com.