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Creative Arts researcher honours the legacy of a Princess

Using art to provide a unique perspective

Ally Zlatar was not yet born when Diana, Princess of Wales, died at the age of just 36.

However, the charity work and personal struggles of the late royal has inspired the 24-year-old University of Southern Queensland research student to take a fresh approach to a global issue – and it’s even earned her the praise of late Princess’ family.

Raised in Canada and currently residing in Glasgow, Scotland, Ally Zlatar was recently awarded The Princess Diana Legacy Award, highlighting her work addressing eating disorders through art.

The Princess Diana Legacy Awards are held every second year and honour young people across the globe who are making exceptional strides for societal change.

“Being considered worthy as someone following in Princess Diana's footsteps is such a remarkable achievement,” Ally said.

“She has inspired my work for years and receiving this accolade shows me that I am on the right track and that my work is making a difference.”

Ally’s Doctor of Creative Arts study through the University of Southern Queensland is on the lived-in experience of eating disorders within contemporary art.

“I suffered from anorexia for over ten years, and I felt that my loved ones, treatment teams and mainstream media did not understand the depths of the struggles people with eating disorders and mental health conditions at large, endure,” she said.

“I found my artistic voice was a way to challenge the current perceptions and provide a unique perspective into the grim reality of living in an unwell body, because while the medical field provides a lot of insight into the critical diagnosis of eating disorders, it can neglect human experiences, such as the ‘feeling of being anorexic’,” Ally said.

“My work engages contemporary art’s ability to represent the experiential and emotionally charged facets of artists living with an eating disorder. By using first-hand artistic representations, it provides insights into the subjective emotive and thinking processes that lie beneath the experience of the illness.”

Her supervisor, Associate Professor Beata Batorowicz from the University of Southern Queensland’s School of Creative Arts, said Ally’s project is a powerful practice-led study that raises social awareness around mental health.

“Ally’s research takes on an insider artist-researcher approach with her subtle, intimate and symbolic paintings foregrounding the psychological states and emotional qualities of eating disorders as a mental illness,” Associate Professor Batorowicz said.

“Ally's project demonstrates how creative research can become a central vehicle in enabling interdisciplinary and critical dialogue between art and health fields, within the academic and industry sectors, as well as across local and global contexts, and specifically asserts that art can be a catalyst for social change.

“The project also underpins our University's key priority research area of Health and Wellbeing, as well as the School of Creative Arts key research themes. The project marks one amongst several meaningful working relationships, currently developing across schools and faculties, and it’s wonderful to work with Associate Professor Amy Mullens and Dr Carol de Plessis from the School of Psychology and Wellbeing on Ally’s PhD also.”

Ally said being recognised in the name of Princess Diana was an incredible experience that has encouraged her to continue to use her art to provide a unique perspective of life with an eating disorder.

“The royal family truly were so kind and supportive. They were so attentive and passionate about advocacy and wanted to learn more from the work I have done, which felt wonderful,” she said.

“I would encourage all young women in the Arts not to shy away from being vulnerable and authentic in their art practice. Creating impact requires genuine communication and art has so much power to facilitate that when harnessed correctly.”

Ally Zlatar with Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.
Ally Zlatar was recently awarded The Princess Diana Legacy Award, highlighting her work addressing eating disorders through art.