By Emily Devereux
When Tamires Para started her Master of Fine Arts in painting, she was interested in studying how female bodies are under-represented in media.
Her main passion is illustration and concept art, and before continuing her studies she was working in the video game industry, so it seemed like a relevant topic to delve into.
Throughout her research, Para’s area of focus morphed, culminating in a thesis show called “Thick Skins – Our Journey Towards Communal Healing”, a body of work that explores, well, bodies.
Para moved to Edmonton from Rio de Janeiro three years ago to attend the University of Alberta.
“Growing up in Brazil, society there is very patriarchal, very misogynistic, and there’s very much what I call the ‘culture of the body’,” said Para.
Between the climate and the culture, she found that showing a lot of skin is expected as well as sexualized. She also notes that Brazil has one of the highest rates of plastic surgery procedures with many people, especially women, seeking perfection in their bodies.
“When I moved [to Canada] I had this idea in my mind that, you know, things would be different with women here,” she said. “I found out that no, actually, we suffer the same struggles.”
At the core of her thesis research was painting from life and speaking with her models. Para invited regular people—not professional models—to her studio to pose either in the nude or clothed and to discuss her research with them.
Female, male, nonbinary, transgender and cisgender, Para found that everyone has the capacity to struggle with their body image.
Her hope is that her work can help people come together under the realization that we are all in the same boat, and create a space for discussion and healing around body image issues.
Para also painted herself in the nude, and in the process, found her own way to begin healing from the effects of a toxic culture.
“It encouraged a lot of growth to be able to paint myself several times in a row and find the shapes that I liked,” Para said.
By painting both herself and others, it gave her a chance to see herself in the same light that she views her models in—a light where there is beauty and strength in everybody.
“Thick Skins” was shown from May to June 2019 at the FAB Gallery at the University of Alberta, and will be making a reappearance at the Harcourt House in February 2020.
For now, Para is working on private commissions and her portfolio, hoping to land a full-time art job so that she can work towards her permanent residency.
If her job search allows her to stay in Edmonton—which she’d like—she will be starting a year-long residency at the Harcourt House in October.
Find her portfolio and contact information online at www.tamiresparafineart.wordpress.com and her Instagram @tamirespara.art.