Fatness and Femininity Through the Lens of AI

Artist Blog by Margaret Murphy

In August of 2022, I started using the AI software Midjourney. Like many artists, especially photographers, I was intrigued by its capability for image-making. With my primary subject matter having been myself, I was motivated to attempt to have the AI depict my own likeness. Using text-to-image systems required an exploration of descriptive language in a new way. I began thinking about how subjective body type descriptions can be - especially as they related to anything other than traditional beauty standards. “Fat” has historically been seen as a negative word with many women preferring to identify as “curvy” or “plus-sized”. Having been exposed to body positivity and fat liberation movements through social media, I was actively aware that “fat” in its true sense of the word has no moral value. With a new opportunity to implement language into my visual art practice, I decided to investigate how AI systems, trained on pre-existing cultural media, understand these words. This project, tentatively titled FAT FEMININE, is still a work in progress but I’ve embraced its capacity to envision femininity and fatness in a celebratory way and to imagine a world in which this kind of imagery is more accessible than it was when I was young. The outputs range from abstract to surreal, to photorealistic and I’ve enjoyed seeing how working with AI can be a conversation - me prompting the AI with a series of descriptive language or phrases, and then being inspired by the outputs it gives me.

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