Sam Geballe

Location: San Francisco, CA
Biography: Sam Geballe is an artist living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sam’s involvement in art began in early childhood, and they have frequently used creative expression as a means of communication and connection to their self and... MORE
Public Story
Copyright Sam Geballe 2023
Updated Aug 2023
(2013 - Present)

This is not another fat kid story. There are times when I do assume that role, but it does not define me. I can find many reasons to explain why I ate, but it would be all too easy to displace blame. What people do not realize are the functions of my size: I used my weight as a barrier to mask vulnerability and create walls as a way to protect myself. It is how I survived as I hid behind my weight.

I make self-portraits to shift my perspective from how I see myself to my interpretation of how others see me. Self-Untitled visualizes the feeling that false perceptions provoke and speaks more broadly to the mistreatment of a person. Self-Untitled is a body of work that requires fearlessness. I have had to set aside doubts to convey my intended message.

I think assumptions derive from personal history understanding. My assumptions emerge when I make conclusions about the present using past experiences. This pattern is cyclical, but I can change the outcome by humanizing myself to others. What I have learned and strive to depict in my art is that being vulnerable and forming connections can be healing.

I share my story as an opportunity for a viewer to say, “I’ve been there too.”


(Update 2022- Present)

In 2014, I had a gastric bypass and my life radically changed. Most of my excess weight lifted within a year. The changes were drastic. Being alive was unbelievably easier. I could breathe, but I was also devastated to learn I had no idea who I was.  

Fear quickly filled the space where my body had been. My walls were gone. I did not know how to respond to others. I often reacted as if I were still in a bigger body. I felt unsafe and angry.

For years, I believed I had to atone for having been big, the space I occupied, and for the food I ate. I wanted to disappear. I leveraged my past as a reason why I should not trust others or myself. I was afraid I would lose control, lose my breath, and lose my life.  

It is difficult for me to believe these are my self-portraits. They feel distant and unrecognizable. Depersonalization is a defense I use to avoid pain but avoiding pain forces me to keep it. It is not a key to good living.  

I started Self-Untitled to help alleviate the shame I had for my body, build connections, and humanize myself to others. That is still true, but now, self-portraiture is also a way I process life. It is a practice of self-acceptance; a daily conversation and a reminder that I deserve to take up space.  

 I do not need to apologize for my existence.

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