Petra Collins takes photos of her friends in cut-offs and puts neon Rihanna lyrics on gallery walls. It’s up for interpretation whether you see that as a form of feminism. She is a self-described feminist and walks the line somewhere between fashion and art culture. Not an uncommon thing to do, but certainly a path less easily tread by women artists addressing subjects that the fashion industry influences heavily and arguably negatively (…expectations of femininity and the female figure).
Petra’s practice sets out to embrace her own vision of what is beautiful, young and female. Conveniently, she is thin and (un)conventionally beautiful, but she has a point. There’s a definite irony in one woman telling another that what she does is somehow shameful or misrepresents the female gender. It’s slippery territory because one might wonder why Petra feels such affinity with this aesthetic. Is it because she was brought up on it, and what are the implications of that?
In 2013, Instagram deleted her profile for this picture after which she wrote an essay posted by Oyster Mag and the Huffington Post that you can read here on her website. Basically, She doesn’t want you to tell her what she can do with her body, whether you see it as feminist or not. Petra’s work is powerful, and yes, it makes young women and girls look sexy. The Teenage Gaze is a photo series from 2013 mostly of girls in highschool, bathrooms, with water, or applying makeup. It’s erotic and beautiful, delicate and girly in the most stereotypical sense. It defends the right to be as you wish as a woman, whether you fit neatly within or totally outside the box of preconceptions. See Petra’s most recent work on her Instagram feed (looks like she’s been too busy making art to update her website).