Myla Dalbesio Essay Contest

Myla DalBesio is an American multi-disciplinary visual and performance artist. Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1987, she studied Fine Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently based in New York City. Her work is greatly influenced by the examination of traditional and sexual femininity, mystical nature, and the place where the two meet.


PERFORMANCE

2013
Life and Death in the Golden Land, Death Valley, CA

2011
Homecoming: Sophomore Year, in collaboration with Amanda Schmitt, RH Gallery, New York, NY
YOUNG MONEY, Glutton For Punishment, Ramis Barquet Gallery, New York, NY
Homecoming, in collaboration with Amanda Schmitt, SCHOOL NITE, presented in conjunction with the New Museum's Festival of Ideas, The Old School, New York, NY

2010
Staring Contest, Physical Center, St. Cecilia's Convent, Brooklyn, NY

SOLO AND TWO PERSON EXHIBITIONS

2015
Into You, Into Me, SPRING/BREAK Art Fair, Skylight at Moynihan Station, New York, NY

2013
BORN RICH, Art Virus, Frankfurt, Germany (catalog)
I Don't Know What It Is But It Feels Good, SPRING/BREAK Art Fair, The Old School, New York, NY

GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2016

Girl Gaze, Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles, CA
You Are What You Seek, SuperMarket, New York, NY
You Can Call Me BabySPRING/BREAK Art Fair, Skylight at Moynihan Station, New York, NY

2015

Take Me Home Tonight, AltSpace, New York, NY
In The Heat Of The Night, Castor Gallery, New York, NY

2014
The Last Brucennial, New York, NY
New York, Kunsthalle Palazzo, Liestal, Switzerland (catalog)

2013
A Thin Place, Schöleinstrasse 33, Berlin, Germany
Goddess Clap Back, Cue Arts Foundation, New York, NY (catalog)
Rock Them, Rox Gallery, New York, NY
alonetogether, in collaboration with Amanda Schmitt, Juliana Cerqueira Leite, and Grace Villamil, SPRING/BREAK Art Fair, The Old School, New York, NY

2012
13.0.0.0.0, RH Gallery, New York, NY
POST ACID, Small Black Door Gallery, New York, NY
Till dust gathers on grass, SPRING/BREAK Art Fair, The Old School, New York, NY
Foolsgold Valentine's, RH Gallery, New York, NY

2011
SCHOOL NITE, presented in conjunction with the New Museum's Festival of Ideas, The Old School, New York, NY

2010
Physical Center, St. Cecilia's Convent, Brooklyn, NY
Prehistoric, Outlaw Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

CURATORIAL

2016
You Can Call Me Baby, SPRING/BREAK Art Fair, Skylight at Moynihan Station, New York, NY

2013
Magic Kingdom, presented in conjunction with the New Museum's Ideas City, The Old School, New York, NY

WRITING

2016

"You and Me," P Magazine, Issue IV. Print.
"In Dreams," 2003 Magazine, pg. 36. Print.
"On Beauty,” Allure Magazine, August.
"H.A.G.S." You Do You.com, June.

2015

"The Body Issue," Suited Magazine, Fall/Winter.
"Girl on Girl: When Did Fashion Change It's Mind About The Size 6 Supermodel?" Elle Magazine, April 27.
"How To Climb A Mountain," Oyster Magazine, Spring. Print.
"1," LSD WORLDPEACE, New York: Unpiano Books, 2015, pp. 4-5. Print.
"Girl on Girl: My Art's Erotic, But I'm Not 'Easy',” Elle Magazine, Mar 2.
"Girl on Girl: Introducing Myla DalBesio's Column for Elle.com," Elle Magazine, Feb 11.

2013
"Desert Diary," Twin Magazine, April, pp. 83-84. Print.

PUBLICATIONS

STUDIES OF ECSTASY, Melville Brand Design, 2015
Born Rich, Edition Faust, 2013

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

2016

Cabiles, Janroe, "Talking Bodies," Status Magazine, pp. 58-59.  Print.
Winestock, Tish, "Redefining the female experience with Myla Dalbesio," I-D Magazine, June 29.
Okwodu, Janelle, "Myla Dalbesio Is Starting A Revolution," Vogue, March 21.
Eckardt, Stephanie, "An Ambitious Calvin Klein Model Sets Her Sights On The Art World," W Magazine, March 17.
Cohen, David, "Armory Week Pick Of The Day," Art Critical, March 7.
Johnson, Paddy, "The Artist-Centric Movement Has It's Milestone Moment: SPRING/BREAK," Art F City, March 7.
Stern, Rachel, "Rachel Stern's SPRING/BREAK Slideshow," Art F City, March 7.
Bialas, Milena, "INTERVIEW: MYLA DALBESIO," Fraulein Magazine, March 7.
Chreahan, D, "AO ON-SITE - NEW YORK: SPRING/BREAK ART SHOW," Art Observed, March 5.
Eckardt, Stephanie, "Anti-Armory: Scenes from Spring/Break," W Magazine, March 4.
Green, Chris, "SPRING/BREAK: Too Many Cooks In The Post Office," Art F City, March 3.
Duron, Maximiliano, "A Tour Of The SPRING/BREAK Art Fair," Art News, March 3.
Gamble, Ione, "Why are people still shocked by female sexuality?" Dazed Digital, March 2.
DeBrincatt, AM, "ROLL CALL: HIGHLIGHTS FROM SPRING/BREAK 2016," artfile magazine, March 2.
Lynch, Scott, "Spring/Break Kicks Off Armory Week With Long Lines And A Kissing Closet," Gothamist, March 2.
Messinger, Kate, "Beyond the Main Fair: 9 Things To See This Armory Arts Week," Paper Magazine, March 1.
Manning, Emily, "5 things you can't miss at spring/break, nyc's buzziest art fair," i-D, March 1.
Kerr, Dylan, "I Know What You Did Last SPRING/BREAK: Fair Founders Ambre Kelly and Andrew Gori's 9 Most Memorable Booths," Artspace, February 26.
Stormezand, Marjolein "I Will Not Be Ashamed Of My Body," Elle Magazine, Netherlands, February.
Fedorova, Anastasiia "Five Female Artists Turning Hotel Selfies Into Art," Amuse, January 29.

2015

Fedorova, Anastasiia "feminist photographer and model Myla Dalbesio on the myth of the american road trip,"i-D, November 6.
Fedorova, Anastasiia "Myla Dalbesio on how to photograph real women,"Dazed Digital, September 11.
Mohammad, Sehba "Myla Dalbesio on Sex Positivity and Nature," Flavorpill, August 5.
Velasco, Ana "Exclusive: Myla Dalbesio Takes Back the Power," Milk Made, May 20.
"Myla DalBesio," Tush Magazine, Spring, pg 211. Print.
Kerr, Dylan, "Artist to Watch: More Indie Than Independent? 6 to See at the (un)SCENE and Spring/Break Fairs," Artspace, March 6.
Meier, Allison, "Jam-Packed Spring/Break Art Show Pulls Into Moynihan Station," Hyperallergic, March 4.
Munro, Cait, "Spring/Break Art Fair Is Bigger, Flashier, and Scrappier Than Ever," Artnet News, March 4.
"Rozmiar Outsiderka," Viva Moda!, Spring. Print.

2014

Chernikoff, Leah, "Myla DalBesio on Life After Love, Diets, and Going Viral,"Elle Magazine, December 23.
Weinstock, Tish, "size doesn’t matter for calvin klein model myla dalbesio," i-D Magazine, November 24
Hyland, Véronique, "Calvin Klein’s Controversial Model Myla Dalbesio on Art, Envy, and Body Image," New York Magazine, November 12.
"The What's Underneath Project - Myla DalBesio," Style Like U, September 3.
Yotka, Steff, "“It’s About Taking Ownership of Ourselves Again”: Model and Artist Myla Dalbesio on the State of the Contemporary Nude," Vogue, August 31.

2013
Kinsella, Ana, "Let's Get Spiritual," BON Magazine, Fall/Winter, pp. 75-76. Print.
Kimball, Whitney, "This Week's Must-See Art Events," Art F City, July 8.
Molla, Rani, "The Power of Reappropriating Imagery," Visual.ly, July.
Rustan, Mari, "Myla DalBesio and Adam Mignanelli: Conversation between two curators on Wish Meme," Scroll, May 13.
Sutton, Benjamin, "Yung Lenox, Wish Meme's Hip Hop Portraitist...," ARTINFO, May 10.
Sutton, Benjamin, "New Frieze Week Fair Wish Meme Explores the Many Facets of Nostalgia," ARTINFO, May 9.
Skupin, Bernd, "Kunst-Kult: Artist & Model Myla DalBesio in Frankfurt,"Deutsch Vogue, May 8.
Cronin, Emily, "Me Oh Myla," Twin Magazine, April, pp. 79-85. Print.
El, Eugen, "Ausstellung: Myla DalBesio und Trong Gia Nguyen," Faust Kultur.
Bolt, Kristen, "Myla Moves," Models.com, April 15.
Walsh, Brienne, "Spring/Break Art Show: Tough Issues Tackled Through Art,"GOOD Magazine, March 14.
Hansen, Greta, "Spring Comes early at Spring/Break Art Fair," Societe Perrier, March 13.
Trainor, Natalie, "SPRING/BREAK Art Show @ The Old School," Art Nerd New York, March 12.
"The Spring Break Art Show," UO Blog, March 11.
Sutton, Benjamin, "ONE-LINE REVIEWS: Pithy Takes on the Art of Armory Week," ARTINFO, March 8.
McClermont, Doug, "Reviews: New York, 13.0.0.0.0," ARTnews, March, p. 95. Print.
"5 Artists to see during Armory Week," NY ARTS Magazine, February 18.

2012
Drori, Dana, "Finding Myla DalBesio at the End of the World," Bullett Magazine, November 14.
Barna, Ben, "Artist and Model Myla DalBesio Confesses Her Sins," Bullett Magazine, July 26.
Marini, Beniamino, "Myla DalBesio," Vogue Italia, June 30.
Williams, Kate, "Myla DalBesio," Oyster Magazine, June 25. 
Baenen, Alison, "More than Models: Myla DalBesio," Ford Models Fashion, April 3.
Gallo, Jacquelyn, "In Conversation with Myla DalBesio," Dossier, March 6.
Chernikoff, Leah, "Meet Ford Model and Performance Artist Myla DalBesio: Is She the Next Crystal Renn?" Fashionista, January 25. 
Pazuniak, Roman, "Myla DalBesio," Claph Magazine, January, pp. 14-29.
"Performance Art Pushes the Envelope..." Mutual Art, January 18.

2011
Wright, iO Tillett, "Notes From the Underground - Myla DalBesio," T Magazine, August 16.
Bartlett, Man, "Lap Dance Artist Talks Power, What's Really For Sale & Evangelical Christians," Hyperallergic, August 4.

It was Marisa Miller in the jeweled bikini. Well, less of a bikini and more of a big necklace (was it even that big?) strategically placed to cover her nipples. The magazine had arrived at our apartment unceremoniously. My boyfriend, taking advantage of a seemingly last ditch effort by the publishing industry to save the future of print, had purchased a bundle deal on magazine subscriptions. Thusly, we had copies of various weekly publications jammed into our mailbox until the post man had to ring our bell for us to come down and get them. Time, The New Yorker, Science, Sports Illustrated. All shuffled into our dingy, lumpy carpeted Bed Stuy apartment, stacked on the counter, thumbed through and water ringed for far too long before being tossed in the recycling. 

I did not grow up in a household with sexy lady magazines stashed in a father’s dresser drawer or next to the armchair in the basement. I don’t think we had any magazines, really, save for a stack of National Geographic that my father kept leaning against the wall next to his nightstand. He was a sports fan, but not of the illustrated variety, and certainly there were no bikini-clad babes. These images of women remained a nebulous idea, fascinating me in stolen snippets of time at friend’s houses and gas station magazine racks, and for days afterwards, running through my mind in moments of boredom during school and hours of imagination at night, waiting for sleep to overtake me. In furtive childhood glances I found these women powerful and intoxicating. I both wanted them and wanted to be them. 

I was never given “the talk”, never even handed a book about my body and what it meant to become a woman, so the bikini babes were a species completely unknown to me and far beyond my realm of understanding. Even after moving to New York and signing as a model to Ford, it wasn’t until Marisa Miller was jammed into our overstuffed mailbox that I finally spent some time with the magazine. It’s hard to remember what my initial reaction was. As I dive deeper into my current feminism, I strive to be accepting and non-judgmental towards all kinds of women. In my early 20s though, this goal was less prominent. Jealousy quickly morphs into bitchiness and hate, and I can only assume my first time paging through the issue was accompanied by smug judgments meant to assuage my own feelings of ineptitude. And yet, weeks later, while it may have been thoroughly rumpled and water ringed, this issue stayed stacked on the counter. It lived there for far longer than any other magazine that had been shuffled through our apartment, probably for months, and it wasn’t of my boyfriend’s volition. Something about it grew on me, something about the girls, the poses, the settings; it wiggled its way into my mind and I couldn’t let it go.

A traditionalist may imagine that identifying as a feminist while simultaneously desiring to be a near-naked model in Sports Illustrated must bely some level of cognitive dissonance. Two seemingly conflicted ideas, standing in opposition to one another. You can’t fight against the oppression of the male gaze while simultaneously volunteering yourself as subject to it. Or can you? The first time I went in for a casting I struggled with that very question. It was 2012, Kate Upton was on the cover and Crystal Renn was contorting inside. I was channeling my frustration with the industry-imposed limitations of my modeling career into performance art, posing as a stripper and performing durational topless faith-healing sessions in the back of a Chelsea art gallery. I was skeptical and angry, annoyed with years of being told I was too fat, then too thin, with photographers and agents and empty promises of change, only to incur disastrous arguments when I tried to assert myself. I had just terminated my relationship with my acting agency, after they expressly chastised me for turning down an audition for an Axe commercial that I thought was demeaning. My modeling agents were practically frothing at the mouth when they told me I had been called in to see Sports Illustrated. For the first time since Marisa Miller, I revisited the magazine. I clicked through the photos online. I watched the (not SI-related) video of Kate Upton doing the Cat Daddy and rolled my eyes. This was not for me, I decided. But I was scared to jeopardize the relationship with my only remaining agency (and source of income), so I threw on a bikini, grabbed my book, and headed uptown to the Time-Life building to meet some man named MJ, who would probably have me strip down and spin in a circle for him, maybe bounce up and down for a minute, and send me on my way. A simple Google search could have prepared me for the surprise that awaited, but I was too busy passing judgment on a perfectly sweet and intelligent woman who was the victim of a perky photographer releasing a silly behind-the-scenes video without her consent (see: 2015-era revelations regarding said Cat Daddy incident). 

I passed through the security checks, gave my name to a man at the front desk, and after waiting 10 or 15 minutes, was called back to the desk and informed, “She’s ready for you! Head on up.” She? Had I heard wrong? No, I hadn’t. What was wrong were my assumptions heading into it, my misplaced judgement and general bad attitude. I was met at the elevators by a bubbly brunette, all smiles and compliments, and ushered into an unassuming office plastered with modeling comp cards, the telltale bikini babes, and in between, family photos. “Hi! I’m MJ,” said the woman behind the desk, grinning at me and taking my hand. She was sweet and freckled, strawberry blonde and brimming with the kind of energy that makes you feel better just by being in it’s proximity. “I’m so happy you made it!” she exclaimed. “Thanks so much for coming out.”

There’s something about MJ that, like the girls in the magazine that she runs, is slightly intoxicating. The moment you step into the room with her, you are already friends. After years of stumbling through castings, standing awkwardly while someone flips through your book and silently judges you, you come into MJ’s office and are invited to sit and chat. She gives you real time, looks you in the eye. She asks you questions, she listens, she smiles, you laugh, and without trying, you feel she is on your side. MJ is like the cool girl from high school who lets the nerds take her to prom. She’s the one who makes room for everyone to sit at her table. When I meet MJ she tells me about how much she loves women, how hard she is pushing to change things in the industry. “I want more for us all,” she tells me. “More diversity. More sizes, more shapes, more races. It’s hard here,” she says. “Even if I love someone for the magazine, we have to get everything approved by so many rounds of people, and it’s tough to push back against a system of men that are scared to take chances.” I nod. I am slowly being converted. “But I won’t stop trying,” she says, smiling. “I know we’ll get there. I’m going to change things,” she repeats. And I believe her. 

I was right to believe her. Three years later, size 14 beauty Robyn Lawley becomes the first model over a size 6 to grace the pages (save for vintage issues). The next year, size 16 bombshell Ashley Graham is on the cover, along with Ronda Rousey and Hailey Clauson, displaying three very different body types. The entire structure of the magazine is changing, putting more emphasis on the featured models as multi-dimensional people - promoting their outside interests, giving them a voice and a platform. This time when I go in for a casting we talk about the progress that has been made with the magazine. Things with me have changed as well. Perhaps it’s the explosion of the sexy Instagram selfies, perhaps it was a change in my relationship, but I am no longer scared of using my body as a tool in my work. In fact, as my relationship with my body and the way I work with it has changed, my relationship with other women has changed as well. Judgment begins to fall away. I recognize that we all want to feel pretty, to feel sexy, to feel appreciated. If posting a provocative photo of yourself makes you feel that way, who cares? Women are powerful and sexual beings, and we don’t need society to dictate when it is okay to express that. This is something MJ knew all along. 

It’s hard to hear someone say that I am being objectified by participating in things like the Swimsuit issue. It feels insulting, implying that I am somehow being taken advantage of, that I am not empowered in my own decisions. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I embrace my body and celebrate it, and for me that is what this issue represents. When I strip down and roll around in the sand, I’m not doing it for men, I’m doing it for me. I’m doing it because I worked for a decade to get here, went through countless trials and tribulations over my body image, and now I am proud to represent women my size. I am proud to show that you can be strong, smart, and sexy. I am proud to defy outdated and incorrect expectations of what feminists look and act like. I can be serious about women’s rights and flaunt my curves in a swimsuit (or out of one) at the same time. I hope that by doing so, I can help other women that look like me (and even those that don’t) begin to appreciate and love their bodies more. And I want women to know that feminism, as defined by the dictionary, means “the belief that men and women should have equal opportunities”. That’s it. It does not dictate the type of person you are, what you are allowed to do or say or wear, or what magazine you decide to show your ass in. My recent casting ends in a similar way as the first one. “I’m going to change things,” MJ tells me again. I still believe her.

BONUS: See some of Myla's career highlights below!

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