Tanya White MA Fashion, BA Fashion Design

Job Title:

PhD Research Student


School of Design



Embroidered Portraiture (back view detail) MA Research Creation 2012
Ryerson University School of Fashion Sequins, silk thread on silk organza

Embroidered Portraiture (back view detail) MA Research Creation  2012


Tanya White

Supervisor: Vicky Gunn

Was Jesus the first supermodel? Medieval religious aesthetics and Modern Day Visual Culture: Interpreting the emaciated body of Christ as a holy ideal

Psalm 22:16-17 “I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me."

Who is ultimately responsible for the cultural dieting epidemic and the western unreasonable need for a thin body? A lean body that has long sinuous limbs, exposed ribs, a fleshless waist and visible hipbones is an image that is continually held as a model of physical perfection to some. The blame of unhealthy body image has been directed toward the obvious cultural influences but this seems to be a reductive conclusion. Historically and presently, this may not explain the level of reverence or pathological commitment necessary to purposely deny the human body enough food to function.

Historically, there is evidence of anorexia that dates back to the Middle Ages (Baxter 2001: 137). To my knowledge there were no fashion publications, advertisements or starlets to obsessively follow in antics and appearance. Christian iconography invaded all aspects of medieval society propagating a rigorously pious lifestyle. When reading religious art from this period, specifically portrayals of the crucifixion and lamentation, Christ is rendered near skeletal (Griffith 205: 209). The hips and ribs protrude, the stomach caves, and the limbs are bone and tendon. Divinely captured in the state of glorious martyrdom his gaunt expression reveals high sharp cheekbones and eyes that are large and hollowed. In the Christian institution the crucified body is an acceptable source of idolization and a tool of visual meditation in devotional practices. In this I question how does the starved and dying body of Christ as a heralded iconic image shape our current collective taste and further does this vision inspire the chaste female anorexic’s tendency toward a starved physical ideal?

I intend to hand-embroider a series of corporeal studies that visually translate my discoveries relating religious imagery and unhealthy body ideals. My intention is to compose glowing ethereal bodies founded in the expressive aesthetic of the medieval arts to challenge the edges of splendor, grotesqueness, frailty, and garishness.


2012- MA Graduate Exhibition, “Embroidered Portraiture”, The Design Exchange, Toronto, Ontario.
2014- “Speak Love,” Ivanochko et Cie, Sasha Ivanochko, Winchester Street Theatre, Toronto, Ontario. Winnipeg Manitoba. Montreal Quebec.
2014- “3/2/1,” Dancemakers, Martin Boulanger, Tonya Livingston, Ami Henderson, Dancermakers Centre for Creation, Toronto Ontario. Costume
2011- “Double Bill #2,” Dancemakers, Michael Trent and K.G. Guttman, Canada Dance Festival La Nouvelle Scene, Ottawa Ontario. Toronto Ontario. Costume
2009-10- “Fidelity’s Edge,” Susie Burpee Dances, Enwave Theatre, Toronto, Ontario. Costume
2008-10- “A Mass Become’s Her,” Susie Burpee Dances, The Betty Oliphant
Theatre, Toronto, Ontario. Costume
2008- ”Bloodletting and Other Pleasant Things,” Dancemakers, Tony Chong, Dancemakers Centre for Creation Toronto, Ontario. Montreal Quebec. Costume

White, T., 2016. Embroidered portraiture and the intentional creation of human visibility and value. Craft Research, 7(2), pp.247-263.

Tanya White CV

Tanya White CV |

Tanya White CV