“Cellulite, rolls and stretch marks”: Deja Patterson challenges body standards in her erotically charged paintings

The artist discusses how social media – initially a hotbed for promoting restrictive body standards – is now an empowering source for inspiration.

24 February 2022

“Fuck da diet” is the urgent message from the weighing scales in one of Deja Patterson’s sumptuously pink-paletted paintings. The artist paints intimate bedroom scenes and portraits, and joyfully celebrates “things that women are told to hide such as: cellulite, rolls and stretch marks.” The erotic charge of her paintings are emphasised through lustrous, painterly brushstrokes and hot pink colour palettes. At the core of these lavish paintings, is Deja’s principal goal – “to depict fat Black women accurately.”

“Like most people today, I spend countless hours on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook,” Deja Patterson tells It’s Nice That. “Growing up, unrealistic standards were heavily ingrained in my mind from what I saw in the media during the 2000s and 2010s. Stars like Britney Spears, Pink and Paris Hilton were seen as the pinnacle of beauty even though their physiques were not easily obtainable.”

But now, she tells us, her social media is flooded with “plus size women and a lot of Black women” that she admires. She uses her creative practice to celebrate these women. Although her portfolio includes an impressive range of self-portraits, she often reaches out to people on Instagram asking permission to use their photographs for artistic reference. Once she has their permission, Deja takes a Sharpie marker and begins sketching ideas, working out all the little “kinks” like colour palettes and compositions.


Deja Patterson: Red Hot (Copyright © Deja Patterson, 2021)

When it comes to painting a finalised idea, Deja likes “to work in numerous layers”. This is what gives paintings like Fupa no. 2 its naturalistic, soft skin-tone texture and the luxurious satin quality of the pink fabric forming the background. Deja developed her skill for depicting surfaces through a fine art BA at Tougaloo College and an MA at Queen’s College in New York.

Using this time to deepen her knowledge of the art world, Deja began to get to grips with the busy art scene in New York. But when she initially moved there, she was forced to deal with fat shaming “time and time again”. But instead of being intimidated, these experiences led the artist to the important decision that she was going to “depict people who looked like me in my work”. Unafraid to accentuate the erotic beauty of the curvy bodies in her paintings, Deja occasionally receives complaints about the “sexual nature” of her paintings. “I find this to be exciting,” she tells us, “because I enjoy pushing boundaries and evoking emotions and opinions from my viewers.”


Deja Patterson: Fupa no. 2 (Copyright © Deja Patterson, 2021)


Deja Patterson: Tequila and OJ (Copyright © Deja Patterson, 2021)


Deja Patterson: A Hoe and Me no. 2 (Copyright © Deja Patterson, 2020)


Deja Patterson: Quarantine (Copyright © Deja Patterson, 2020)


Deja Patterson: Double Self-portrait (Copyright © Deja Patterson, 2020)


Deja Patterson: Sophia (Copyright © Deja Patterson, 2021)


Deja Patterson: All Natural (Copyright © Deja Patterson, 2021)


Deja Patterson: A Hoe and Me (Copyright © Deja Patterson, 2020)

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Deja Patterson: Fuck da diet (Copyright © Deja Patterson, 2020)

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About the Author

Elfie Thomas

Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.

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