JavaScript is required to view this page.

Ally Zlatar; Listen. Exploring mental health and eating disorders through art.

Ally Zlatar; Listen. Exploring mental health and eating disorders through art.

Please, introduce yourself!

I'm Ally Zlatar, the founder of The Starving Artist. It is an artist initiative that helps broaden perspectives on Eating Disorders and Mental Illness through the artistic voice. I also founded The Starving Artist Scholarship Fund which helps people access inpatient treatment for eating disorders. As an artist and activist my work received the highest accolade a young person can achieve for their humanitarian work; winner of The Princess Diana Legacy Award and also special recognition from The British Citizen Award.

How would you describe your work?

 My work is auto-ethnographic contemporary self-portraits. Really it is a fancy way of saying I explore memories, experiences and self-perception within my work. 

What are the main topics you look to address in your work?

 For me, I explore art-making as a methodology that suggests the human condition is more complex than it is currently understood. My work examines, instigates and provokes notions of the individual experience by focusing on the themes of illness, vulnerability, and authenticity of one’s lived-in experience. In particular, looking at illness, eating disorders, trauma and displacement.

You explore some deeply personal topics in your work, how does your work draws from your own experiences, and what impact does that have on you as an individual?

I go dark haha. I often create 'memoryscapes' so looking back at significant moments in my life and I try to process and communicate the struggles within my artwork. 

While sometimes it is challenging to see how much I have suffered, I think sharing my story is important. Painting about difficult topics is of course difficult, but I believe that the voice needs to be heard.

How do people tend to respond to your work?

 People normally respond one of two ways. Either they come from someone who also has similar experiences and the work deeply resonates with them. These individuals feel this personal connection and are empowered through having their stories edified. Whereas those external gain a much deeper understanding of what their loved ones and those in their communities are experiencing.

What, if anything, do you want the people who see your art to think/feel/do differently?

 Listen. As simple as that. I believe that so often there are outsider voices creating and endorsing the current narratives. When people experience my work, I hope they understand both how immensely difficult it is to endure, but also listen to what we need from them to support the recovery journey.

How important is it that art is used as a medium to explore these topics? How do you think it facilitates the conversation differently?

My project intentionally draws on the art field to bridge a ‘gap’ in the issue of addressing eating disorders. While the medical field provides a lot of insight into the critical diagnosis of eating disorders, it can neglect the human experience such as the ‘feeling of being anorexic’. Art can explore experiential facets that include being ‘othered’ through social isolation; an emotional detachment and a subjective sense of feeling an eating disorder.


You also founded the Starving Artist Scholarship Fund, please could you tell us a little more about that?

The Starving Artist is an art initiative that explores the lived-in experiences of mental illnesses such as eating disorders and body dysmorphia. The Starving Artist seeks to redefine the current narratives and treatment surrounding these illnesses and help foster systemic reform through the power of creative voices. Some of the key focus areas are creating artworks and arts-based research, publications, exhibitions, workshops, artist talks and reflection that explore the themes concerning what it is actually like to endure an eating disorder.

How can people support the fund, if they wanted to?

There are so many ways to support such as making a donation directly through the site ( or even purchasing artwork or publication by The Starving Artist. 

There are also other ways to support other than financially, such as sharing the work within your networks, collaborations and promoting on social media. <3 

What is next for you/what are you working on currently?

 Next, is continuing this journey of art activism. I have several projects in the works such as a Canadian Wide Eating Disorder Exhibition, but to find our more you will have to stay in touch :) .

Thank you so much for sharing your work. How can people find out more about you and your art?

Leave a comment