Vaginas are trending.
Last week, a line of hip twenty somethings wrapped around a SoHo street block to get in line with girls on that time of the month. Tumblr queen, photographer, and American Apparel darling Petra Collins curated Gynolandscape, a multi-media exhibition featuring young female artists. The baby femmes were hand picked from The Ardorous, Collins’s online collective and home page for all art pastel and bloody gorgeous. Collins’s started the collective in 2010 as a response to the lack of space for art by teen women. Now, three years, it seems like Collins is one in a swarm of women working with each other and within femininity. While recent curatorial stances on art by young women have taken a digital bent,Collins bypasses the cyborg and instead stays decidedly in the bodily flesh of pussy power.
Taking bad girl Tracey Emin as muse, Collins’s neon fixtures set the pink glow permeating throughout the whole gallery. Rihanna’s lyrics of sexual dominance shimmer above a masturbatory doodle. The rest of the works featured—mixed media sculptures, drawings, videos, and photography—all follow in toe with Collins’s tight curatorial control. Many of the photographers she selected, including works by her VICE collaborator and artist Arvida Bystrom, were framed and hung on the wall as working collectives, collapsing the distinctions between the pictures painted nails, pearl tampons, and boobies flashing.
This grouped aesthetic mirrors the one-track direction of much of the work featured in The Ardorous. Yet there is something a bit more badass and grotesque behind the sugary sweet. These sweet pussys were bloodstained with sexual deviance. Harkening to Bystrom’s “There Will Be Blood,” a photo series of period-stained girls published on VICE, the show brought the prefix “gyno” home. I had initially winced a little at the title—when I think “gyno” I picture cold hard metal things being forced up my vagina. Collins’s exhibition made me seriously reconsider reclaiming the word for all things gory and pink.
Claire Milbrath’s sex comics of casual encounters, previously featured on VICE (see a trend here?), brought this cute monstrosity home. Her sketches look innocuous until you realize ooh he is peeing on that guy. BDSM, scat play, and gay cunnilingus all get their affected illustrated treatment.
This show was explicitly and implicitly pornographic. At first, the stance is obvious—here are women making sexy porno pics of themselves for themselves. Collins’s show rides on the sexual deviance of teen girl wet dreams. And they aren’t what you’ll find in PornHub—these are the bloody and hairy power cunts of young twenty first century feminists. I’m all for this artsy Lolita tone. But pornography played a more insidious role. Gynolandscape was as much a celebration of female sexuality as it was a branding opportunity for American Apparel, Collins’s corporate sponsor. As I waited in line to get into the opening, I couldn’t help but think this was less about reclaiming cunt than an excuse for a cool kid party with some pretty vagina on the side. I’m not naive enough to wish art and money didn’t get down with each other, but I was a tid bit put off by how little distinction there was between “look at this cool art by women” and “buy these cool American Apparel shirts by women.” Just like PornHub, women’s sexual bodes live side-by-side with ads. Vaginas are trending. Sex sells.
By: Ana Cecilia Alvarez, Managing Blog Editor
All Images found via Google Image Search