By Mo Abbas

Big-bellied, hairy men aren’t usually featured in art or in popular media infatuated with airbrushed and idealized bodies, but a pair of Canadian artists are hoping to buck the trend.

Illustrator Charlie Hunter and sound and video artist Mike Wyeld created “LOVED,” an exhibition showcasing bears — an LGBTQ subculture of large, hairy and often older men.

While not everyone may share the bear community’s attraction to big men, the artists hope its values of high self-esteem and body acceptance are something wider society can learn from.

“Some of the things that the media’s obsessed with — obesity, weight loss, body shape, aging — some of these things we have to be happy with. We get bigger, we get older,” Wyeld said. “You can fight it and be miserable or you can accept it and live with the body that you have and love it.”

The exhibition features nude portraits of bears and a sound and video installation based on interviews with the models about their life experiences.

“It’s called ‘LOVED,’ so I’d like to think that people, when they come here, learn to love themselves a little bit more and love others as well,” Hunter explained.

Having ended a run in London, “LOVED” next moves to Tallinn, Estonia, in April.

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