KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 1: Fall 2014
Ekphrastic Memoir: 241 words

Fat Girl Yawning, by Diane Arbus (1960)

by Ginna Wilkerson

I stand in the art gallery in Aberdeen, leaning into the photo. What would she see now in that 1960 image? I answer my own question, “Herself in a plaid dress, yawning unselfconsciously for the camera.”

What does fat mean at age six or seven? Three letters that label. You play in the park, skip rope, climb trees, catch pond frogs, pretend to be a princess; and a stranger catches your yawn with the snap of a camera. Now your image has traveled all over the world—called fat and caught yawning—labeled lazy.

I wonder where she is, the girl in the photo. I look again from the distance of a faded velvet bench in the centre of the hall. I can see, perhaps, a middle-aged grandmother teaching primary school—or, just as easily, a crackhead slumped in a dirty shop doorway. Maybe she’s incarcerated, with a sad teenaged son who lives in his auntie’s already crowded London flat. She could be the clerk at the Asda in Bridge of Don who always says Cheers as I leave her counter. Or the imposing, elegant head of a high-tech New York City company, sporting a red designer suit and perfectly manicured nails. Would I recognize her yawn if I caught it?

As I sling my bag over one shoulder and walk down the gallery stairs, I think about how my own yawn might look.

Ginna Wilkerson
Issue 1, Fall 2014

Completed a Ph.D. in Creative Writing at University of Aberdeen in 2013, also the year of publication of her first poetry collection, Odd Remains. She received a 2012 Poetry Kit Award for the poem “Dimensions.” Currently, she teaches writing at Ringling College of Art and Design.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Listening to the Voice of Diane Arbus by Alissa Guzman in Hyperallergic: Sensitive to Arts and Its Discontents (4 November 2011); describes the posthumous lecture presented on the 40th anniversary of the photographer’s suicide in 1971.

Diane Arbus Channel at ASX (American Suburb X), which offers a list of videos, essays (some focusing on Arbus and her work, others discussing it tangentially), reviews (both positive and negative), and interviews (not only of Arbus, but also of her family members and her photographic subjects).

For a cornucopia of details about Arbus, including quotations from her writings, see the aptly titled essay at ASX, Where Diane Arbus Went: A Comprehensive Retrospective, by Leo Rubinfien (originally published in Art in America, 2005). At more than 9100 words, including the footnotes, this piece is long but very informative.

Diane Arbus at

[Editor’s Note: Many thanks to for inviting us to add this link in October 2015.]

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