Bev Naidus: Body-Size Artist

Beverly Naidus, 41, tenured professor of “activist and new genre art” at California State University at Long Beach, first published her book. One Size Does Not Fit All, at her local Kinko’s. “I thought female body hate was my personal, clandestine obsession, my own self-esteem problem. At the time I was doing ‘serious’ art about nuclear holocaust and environmental disasters. But people started buying my women’s body-hate book before I even left Kinko’s. So it started to dawn on me: this is important political work—symbolic of a lot that’s screwed up.”

Naidus prefers to show her art at beauty salons and shopping malls rather than traditional galleries. “I like to access a non-art audience, to disguise my work.” She explains; “My body-hate work was first shown as a rack of clothing at a real clothing store. I showed stiff, distorted clothes that looked like skin, each with a laminated price tag with a political saying from my book [like saying on illustration on right]. Then women would find this classical pedestal-altar on which I’d placed a clipboard inviting them to write down their own ‘body hate’ stories. Meanwhile I’m in the store eavesdropping and watching Then I recycle people’s participation into the next incarnation of my show.”

Naidus’ next book, But You Don’t Look American, tackles “consumerism, unemployment, immigration, assimilation, and the whole notion of who’s considered an outsider and why.” Naidus includes her own “personal history of being Jewish, looking dark and different, going to a Yiddish culture camp called Boiberik, and belonging to neither synagogue nor church when I grew up in Glen Rock, New Jersey.”

The Jewish Museum in New York City has invited Naidus to participate in their 1996 show, “Too Jewish,” along with 11 other prominent assimilated Jewish artists.” We’ve all done work on Jewish identity that’s been dismissed or excluded from shows as ‘Too Jewish,'” explains Naidus