Harrison Middleton University

Ally Zlatar: Navigating the Intersection of Art and Activism

Ally Zlatar: Navigating the Intersection of Art and Activism

We’re excited that you’ve joined the conversation! At HMU, we want to continue the great authors’ conversations in a contemporary context, and this blog will help us do that. We look back to Aristotle and the early philosophers who used reason and discourse to gain wisdom and now we endeavor to do the same every day.


October 13, 2023

Thanks to Ally Zlatar, a 2023 Fellow in Ideas, for today’s post.

My journey into the realm of art activism was ignited by my personal battle with severe ill health, which included a protracted struggle with an eating disorder spanning over a decade. Throughout my recovery journey, I came to realize that many, particularly within the medical profession, often fixated on the diagnosis rather than recognizing the person grappling with the illness. Growing up in a traditional Eastern European family, mental health was a subject shrouded in silence and stigma. However, it was only through the medium of art that I found my voice and discovered a means to authentically and vulnerably convey the depth of my experiences.

Drawing from this transformative revelation, I conceived The Starving Artist initiative. This platform serves as a vehicle through which I harness the creative arts as a potent instrument for advocating systemic change and reform. In parallel, I established The Starving Artist Scholarship Fund, an endeavor explicitly designed to facilitate access to inpatient treatment for individuals who, like me, grapple with the devastating challenges posed by eating disorders. For me, art has evolved into an extraordinarily powerful tool, one capable of addressing the pressing sociocultural issues that underlie the very fabric of our society. Its potential for advocacy and transformation is nothing short of profound.

My artistic portfolio embarks on an exploration of the intricacies inherent to the human experience, with a pronounced emphasis on themes such as illness, vulnerability, and authenticity. My creative expressions emanate from the crucible of personal experience and auto-ethnography, rendering them inherently authentic and relatable. It is my unwavering belief in the transformative potential of scrutinizing the unwell body that catalyzes my utilization of art as a conduit for activism, fostering dialogue and instigating societal reform. Drawing from my work, “the world, the flesh, and the breath,” I examine the deeply personal and often painfully complex experience of body dysmorphia. By confronting and exploring my struggles through an alternative and visual format, I strive to bring awareness to the issue but also invite viewers to examine their own relationships with their bodies.

the world, the flesh and the breath, ally zlatar, (1/ 7).
acrylic 6 x 4”, 2023

Another series, “A Glimpse Behind the Blood,” explores cross-cultural dialogue and menstruation experiences and period inequality. The series transcends boundaries of language and traditional discourse. It provides a safe space for individuals to express experiences that may otherwise be too painful or challenging to convey verbally. The visceral and emotive nature of art communicates complex emotions and experiences in a way that words alone cannot. This expressive power has a therapeutic effect on both the artist and the audience, enabling a deeper understanding of the lived experiences being depicted.

While painting may not be for everyone, what I hope you take out of this work is that by fostering creative voices we can amplify impactful narratives, and explore some of the current global challenges with profoundness and sincerity. Art in all forms creates spaces and opportunities for stories to be heard and also contribute to meaningful change. It is through art, advocacy, and empathy that we can pave the way for a more inclusive and compassionate society.

More information about Ally Zlatar: Work – allyz.cargo.site Contact: Linkedin / Instagram: Ally Zlatar

Top photo: still from Journey’s Festival Public Interventions: Manchester, Leicester, Berlin & Portsmouth.

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