Kate Biel

February 16th March 27th, 2023

Press Release & Works List

Kate Biel is a photographer based in Los Angeles. Barbella is her first solo exhibition at Blade Study. Her practice is driven by the opportunity to recreate, distort, and control past experiences in her own life and the lives of others. Through this control, Biel aims to mythologize the ordinary.

Bodybuilding extends the fine lines of the typical feminine body. When performed by women, it is a pageantry and strength-driven sport that challenges gender roles, beauty, and health. As a sport, body building is expensive both physically and fiscally. The athletes who choose this art form often do so at great personal expense. Biel’s work focuses on the pleasure bodybuilders experience in crafting their physiques. She wraps her subjects in a gauze of steam, glitter, and baby oil, resulting in alluring, nostalgic images of buff women flexing, gardening, and relishing in their muscular forms. Biel’s photographs capture this micro-revolutionary act in a gummy haze akin to a centerfold.

While some might see female bodybuilding as an act of rejection, disposing of feminine qualities to exhibit those more masculine, Biel’s work regards the sport as an act of acceptance, a way of nurturing the body into a form more comfortable with itself. In her own words, “Feminine nature begins with pain. Women are born with pain built in. Bodybuilders are canvases that refute the self-sabotaging rhetoric that women are inherently fragile or helpless. Camille Paglia wrote, ‘Modern bodybuilding is ritual, religion, sport, art, and science... Defying nature, it surpasses it.’ The act of female bodybuilding is an act of defiance. The ‘grotesque’ becomes a means to dissolve heteronormative power structures. Bodybuilding embraces the grotesque, and it is one of the few impossible beauty standards the male-dominated media doesn’t openly embrace. Perhaps, due to the threat that a muscled woman can embolden against the norm.”


KATE BIEL (b. San Diego) earned a BFA from Skidmore College with a focus on photography and painting. Her current practice is focused in photography and video. Kate lives and works between Los Angeles and New York.