“Sexuality is just another extension of the behaviour we expect of women. I think it’s important to recognize that it’s not innately timid, selfless or non-existent.”
My desire to crush the patriarchy like all things, stems from my childhood. I was born in Russia and my family moved to the states when I was 9. The difficulty of assimilating made me more sensitive to the attitudes and expectation both cultures placed on women. Achieving equality in any sphere is important to overall equality, and as an artist I’ve chosen to focus on gender and relationships on a more personal, intimate level. Regaining control over our bodies and being able to express our sexuality – whether it’s passive or aggressive can improve personal relationships as well as policy. Using sexual imagery in my work, often laced with humor, brings lightness to the bigger ideas at hand and allows me to more effectively connect with the audience.
Feminism and equality means freedom to choose without being weighed down by social constructs or facing stigma. With my work, I want to challenge some of those constructs and show a different perspective of the female experience. My recent series challenge the notion of passive female sexuality by exploring the female gaze, drawing attention to and objectifying the male, and re-framing the female as the consumer. I think there’s a huge over-saturation of sexual imagery of women and a huge under-representation and similar sexualisation of men (from a heterosexual female perspective), which keeps us confined to the role of the passive object of male desire. By only taking back our bodies and sexuality by depicting them – we’re naturally just putting more focus on our bodies and subjecting them to more sexualisation and scrutiny. So I’ve chosen to focus on the male form! I still paint women when it adds conceptual value, but want to give men their chance to be objectified as well.
I couldn’t agree more! I’m always on the look out for more erotic depictions of men and your work was an obvious choice!
I noticed that your portraits tend to have a 1970’s vibe. What or who inspires that style in your work?
My style is realistic, but the palette has a vintage vibe that romanticises the content and creates a space between the work and the viewer that makes the subject matter more accessible. It also ambiguously references a different time period and alludes to a greater narrative. Some of my series draw directly from vintage pornography – films and magazines, which comes through in the paintings as well.
‘Men Eating Pussy’ and ‘A Dream Come True’ are two series that explore cunnilingus – an under-represented and highly censored sexual act (in both mainstream media and pornography) that is centered on the female pleasure. I’ve always been interested in cunnilingus (shocking, right?) because it’s one of the few aspects of sex that really celebrates and focuses on women, without putting them at risk for pregnancy or STDs! (except for herpes, but you know what I mean) In ‘Men Eating Pussy’, I started to pull away from painting the woman, and focusing on the female gaze instead. The series plays around with different slang terms for head-giving men – muff diver, blood hound, cookie monster. The reference images are taken from film stills, and the woman is negated, emphasizing the male in the giving, yet vulnerable state.
In ‘A Dream Come True’, I decided to take it a step further and explore female fantasy and mainstream media as well. I decided to paint famous male heart throbs accompanied with satirical titles that reference their work – giving the fake stills narrative. The use of celebrity is reminiscent of teenage idols, and frames the concept as less personal and more abstract, making it more accessible to a larger audience. The female perspective of the shots draws attention to and further objectifies the celebrity, while also depicting the rarely portrayed female perspective itself.
My more recent series – ‘Thirsty’ and ‘Ass the World Turns’ both continue to draw attention to the male form, using it to ‘decorate’ functional objects – bottle openers and clocks, respectively. Both series comment on the shift in gender dynamics that has occurred as women have gained financial independence, turning them into consumers and giving them more control over their personal lives.
I did a series a couple years back called “Looking for Mr. Goodsex” that explored visual representation of the female orgasm in vintage pornography from the 70’s and 80’s. I found many ‘good’ depictions that combined exaggerated, possibly fake pleasure with unavoidable vulnerability. Check them out!