Wayne Sables explores the Body Beautiful at Barnsley Civic

by Vicky Prior

Body Beautiful: Diversity on the Catwalk is a stunning new exhibition in the gallery space at the Barnsley Civic. The collection of photos and garments on display challenge body discrimination in various forms. Visitors to the exhibition should gain an insight into the importance of body positivity. The role fashion has to play in teaching us this and making us feel good in our own skin is also addressed.

The exhibition is split into several different sections covering the ways bodies are discriminated against. This includes age, race, disability and being LGBT. Wayne Sables was commissioned to create a promotional film for Body Beautiful, detailing the contents of the exhibition and showing some of the entertainment from the opening night. These include a group of dancers voguing, a style made popular in the 1980s that is enjoying a resurgence in mainstream culture thanks to hit TV show Pose. Many of the guests, some of them included in the exhibition, wore fabulous, exuberant outfits. The colour and vibrancy of the night and of Body Beautiful as a whole is captured to great effect in Wayne’s film.

Body Beautiful features bold photography and beautiful fashion. A range of clothing developed for dwarf model Sinead Burke would not have looked out of place at the recent Met Gala. Designers featured in the exhibition include fashion luminaries Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier. In the LGBT section, I was particularly taken with a simple shift mini dress, covered in a rainbow stripe of sequins. The garments on display range from avant garde to easily wearable and I imagine most visitors will find something they like. As for the photographs themselves, my highlight is the Bearded Brutes, whose glitter covered beards in a variety of hues leap off the wall.

It’s fair to say glittery beards and high fashion are not what springs to mind when people think of Barnsley, but it’s wonderful to see the town in a new light. Barnsley’s regeneration is moving along at speed and to see something so positive and anti-discriminatory in the town will only help to bring in visitors. Body Beautiful will definitely change perceptions of the town and its residents and make people think.

Barnsley Civic is an arts centre in the heart of Barnsley. Visitors by bus or rail only have a short walk from the station to get to the venue. Body Beautiful: Diversity on the Catwalk is produced in partnership with National Museums Scotland. The exhibition is free to enter and is on until 26thNovember 2021. It is part of a yearlong programme of events entitled No Boundaries. Visit Barnsley Civic for more information.