Captured In Mid-Air Lilly McElroy Throws Herself At Men

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The title of Lilly McElroy’s photo series “I Throw Myself at Men” could not be more literal. The photos, taken by her partner in the project, capture her mid-air as she lunges at various men. She throws herself into the air with abandon and trusts that these strangers will catch her. It’s an act of immense bravery captured on film. No, she’s not saving lives or fighting demons, but McElroy is risking rejection and public humiliation in the name of art, and that takes a strength of conviction that I find breathtaking.

Initially, McElroy arranged the photo sessions using Craig’s List, but found that the spontaneity of going to a bar, asking a physically large man to participate by trying to catch her at the very last moment, letting the bartender know what was happening, and then tossing herself in the air resulted in better images. The other bar patrons weren’t in on the project—the sight of the airborne McElroy and the flash of the camera were the signals that something was going on.

“I am, at the moment, part projectile and part foolish romantic. These images are documents of a hopeful and violent gesture, a demand that the possibility of a connection exist. The men often look terrified or at least slightly surprised. My role as aggressor is clear and I think my leaps acknowledge the basic human desire for contact.”

The awkward position of her body, the stoic tension of the male catcher, the illuminated bar scenes—all work together to make a captivating yet uncomfortable tableau. When they’re pictured, it’s the onlookers that make this series for me, though. Outside of the art making they smirk and gape—McElroy’s unexpected grand gesture of connection misunderstood and unappreciated. This spectacle of literally throwing herself at men mimics the small, sad desperations of women figuratively throwing themselves at men. By exaggerating the impulse, McElroy regains the upper hand. It is a supremely feminist performance, one that takes chances but never relinquishes power.

“The photographs, videos, and installations that I produce, while trying to interact, acknowledge the possibility of failure — that someone might not catch me, that a connection might not be made. It is that possibility that keeps things interesting. In the end, I want to make the viewer laugh, but I want them to understand that there is more at stake, that everyone is implicated – including me.”

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Heather Cassils And Three Other Artists Present Alternative Narratives Of Female Sexuality And Identity

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Laura Aguilar

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Aimee Hertog

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In the digital age and generation of the selfie, a spiraling and often disorienting importance placed on consumerism and commodities permeates even the most remote of regions. Through the billboard jungles and beehive of mass media, images relentlessly promoting youth and sexuality haphazardly depict ideals of femininity. Creating a wormhole of inadequacies, the female form has found itself in a constant tug-of-war in either defending its natural state or scrambling to correct propagated notions of aesthetic shortcomings. As Barbara Kruger famously stated on one of her notorious gelatin silver prints from the 1980’s, “You Are Not Yourself”.

The following artists featured turn these preconceived notions on their head while reconstructing a refreshing narrative of female sexuality and identity. Featured artists include  Laura Aguilar, Aimee Hertog, Heather Cassils, and Marina Santana.

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Fairytale Princess Mugshots Are Both Alarming And Totally Awesome

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Normally, fairytale princess characters are the epitome of chastity and innocence. With her series on folk stories, the Spain-based illustrator Marilen Adrover turns the concept of feminine modesty and purity on its head, presenting the gruesome mugshots of legendary heroines. Far from her days of resting piteously in a glass coffin, Snow White, an icon of the selfless domesticity of any ideal wife or helpmate, is arrested for sexual misconduct. Little Red Riding Hood, blood smeared across her once naive rosy cheeks, is taken in on murder charges. Poor, young Goldilocks, no longer a helpless child in search of shelter, has lived a life of crime, and she is reprimanded for breaking and entering. Lewis Carroll’s sweet Alice has grown disillusioned with the real world, turning to her own dangerous wonderland of psychotropic drugs.

By placing these icons of feminine docility and martyrdom in the context of contemporary crime, Adrover cleverly subverts the traditional madonna-whore dichotomy that persists narratives about young women. Like an angst-ridden teen, each vixen stares at her captives teasingly, hoping to challenge their authority. They are no longer defined by their histories of idyllic pastoral innocence, but they certainly cannot be pegged solely as unruly miscreants. Both beloved and dangerous, they refuse to conform to a single fantasy, playing with our culture’s deeply ingrained prejudices and assumptions.

In another ambitious series, Adrover explores the painful pressures facing the bodies of women, presenting evocative portraits of eating disorders and plastic surgery. Her imagined manifestation of anorexia is a bloody red orb, shining outwards from the belly of a woman. In her vision of orthorexia, the orb is blue. Each image, evocative of watercolor painting, subtly explores the persistent emotional traumas and obsessions that burden the human spirit. Take a look. (via Lost at E Minor)

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Women Take To The Streets Wearing Menstrual Blood Stains

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Fed up with the shame surrounding their periods, the Spanish performance collective Sangre Menstrual took over the public streets in sets of white pants stained with menstrual blood. This performance artwork was politically motivated; as the group writes in their “Manifesto for the Visibility of the Period,” the taboo surrounding menstruation serves to oppress women and reinforce patriarchal systems.

By making a public display of their shedding uterine linings, the group hopes to reclaim the female body and free normal bodily functions from shame and judgement. Since the earliest books of the bible and before, menstruation has been viewed as unclean, and often women have even been kept separate from men during their periods. Sangre Menstrual, whose name literally translates to “menstrual blood,” intends to change all that. In their manifesto, the group of women write, “I stain [my pants], and it doesn’t make me sick. I stain [my pants] and I don’t find it disgusting.”

The implications of Sangre Menstrual’s street performance extend beyond menstruation and into larger debates surrounding reproduction and the female body. Like the feminist artist Barbara Kruger and her legendary print “Your Body Is A Battlefield,” the blood-stained performance aims to present the body as a political act of defiance. The manifesto states, “the visibility of the period [is meant] to increase the visibility of the body, as political space.” Do patriarchal, sexist institutions persist in part because of the repulsion with which we treat menstruation? Is this work of art a groundbreaking innovation or a silly shock tactic? (via BUST)

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Anya Gallaccio Creates A Room Made Of Chocolate

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For her new installation “Stroke” at Jupiter Artland, Scottish artist Anya Gallaccio constructs a room made of dark chocolate, inviting visitors to lick the walls if they so dare. The richly aromatic work is designed in part to be a rare feminine space in an art world defined mostly by men. The artist, who has worked with red roses in the past, sees her unusual medium as one normally associated with the female; here, she brings the domestic out of the shadows and boldly into the public realm. The room itself is evocative of female sensual pleasure; painted in thick, gentle layers of sweetness, it is dark and cavernous, a space to be entered into.

Housing only a small bench, the piece maintains ambiguity, relying upon its inhabitants to draw meaning from the slights, smells, and tastes. The work is as much about fantasy and anticipation as it is the actual experience of sitting in a chocolate room, which the artist explains is not what one might expect. As time wears on, she expects that the sweet odor will turn sour; the chocolate, painted onto the walls with brushes, will oxidize. Bugs have already moved into the space.

Galloccio’s title “Stroke” alludes to the dual nature of the work; she explains that a “stroke” can describe a tragic and sudden heart attack as much as it can a soft caress. Ultimately, the impact of the work is in the hands of viewers, who may either choose to abandon social etiquette to indulge in a feast of licking or might simply sit in uncomfortable silence. Either way, it will be a sight to behold. (via Design Boom)

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Kira Ayn Varszegi Uses Her Breasts As Paintbrushes

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The painter Kira Ayn Varszegi substitutes her own 38DD breasts for traditional brushes, covering them in paint and pressing them to her canvas. For Varszegi, fun is an essential element in art making; she hopes to inspire amusement and smiles. Though her work has of course been criticized and cast aside as “frivolous,” the artist has made a name for herself, boasting at least one painting purchased in each American state.

Before we give in the the impulse to judge, let us take a minute to appreciate the product of Varszegi’s efforts. Her paintings quite resemble the work of abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollack or Mark Rothko; she, like them, hopes to inspire more primal and visceral emotions with her marbled surface of color, texture, and form.

But unlike most (but not all) of the 1950s trailblazers, Varszegi is a woman, and that fact is essential to her art making process. Where many modern art movements have been dominated by an idealized machismo, the boob artist embraces what some might call the feminine or the sentimental. Here, the breasts, symbols both of female sexuality and fertility, are the means of creation, as opposed to the paintbrush, an instrument whose form is vaguely evocative of the phallus.

The artist’s compositions mirror the “feminine” tenor of her process, their soft, glittery tones forming elusive and symbolic butterfly and floral shapes. Paint drippings and splotches swirl together in an evocative, orgiastic blur. Take a look, and let us know what you think of the project. It is groundbreaking or silly? (via Oddity Central)

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Jessicka Addams’s Disturbing Paintings Capture Lost Innocence

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The indie-feminist rock-artist Jessicka Addams marries the gothic with the whimsical, creating heartbreaking portraits of innocence lost. In her wonderfully sweet yet disturbing paintings and sculptures, the artist builds a candy-coated dreamscape ripe with sexuality, drug use, and metamorphosis. Her pale, virginal subjects look much like babydolls possessed, embodiments of mythical female mischief and corruption. These works, in some ways, serve as testaments to the pains and labors of the biblical Eve, the mythological Medusa.

Addams’s work is elegantly imbued with an uncomfortable anxiety that arises from the tension between icons of innocence and the suggestion of impurity. Rabbits, used in early Christian art, symbolize the coming of spring, the resurrection, and the rebirth of innocence. Here, this iconographical connotation is poignantly subverted; alongside images of bleeding nostrils, suggestive of cocaine use, these white rabbits could easily find themselves in the drug-induced Alice in Wonderland of Jefferson Airplane. Addams’s rabbits cry bloody pink tears and sprout sea witch limbs.

The cat, an animal both adorable and foreboding, also figures prominently in Addams’s pieces, often in the form of hybrid human or ghost. Addams’s aesthetic is distinctly modern, characterized by thick, dripping brushstrokes and somewhat taboo subject matter. Like those of the modernist trailblazer Goya, her cats seem to represent sin as it creeps in upon the untainted child; a burlap sack, with embroidered feline ears, envelops the face of a pale babe, who weeps as if mourning a lost childhood.

Addams’s exquisite works are charming and unsettling in equal measure, inspiring pity and empathy for our own former innocence. Here, human beings—especially women— are neither madonnas nor whores; instead, the human soul is a complexly woven tapestry, colored with surprising and miraculous shades of gray. Addams’s work is currently on view at The Cotton Candy Machine. (via BUST)

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Rachel Graves Transforms Catcalls And Harassment Into Powerful Photo Series

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In a powerful series by artist and curator Rachel Graves, she interprets the catcalls and street harassment that’s thrown at her and her friends when in public places. Menagerie is a collection of self portraits that liken this lewd and unwanted treatment to the way that animals are prey.

“The project came about as a way for me to take control of what was happening and find a way to answer back and gain ownership over myself again,” Graves explained to The Huffington Post. “For me it was important to do more than simply dress up and paint my face to represent some of the names and insults being thrown at me. I didn’t want to just turn myself into the object that the harassers saw me as. I wanted to find a way to get my sense of self back, to be able to throw the words away and take back control.”

 “Bird,” “fox,” and “bitch,” are all references to animals (and ones that women are called) that dehumanize people, and are all costumes that Graves wears. She paints ghoulish-looking makeup and fashions snouts that reflect the identity of what she is to her taunters. Afterwards, she washes herself of these oppressive masks.

“Being a woman in a public space can be a scary thing. Some men perceive women’s bodies as being public property, and act in ways that are intimidating and sexually aggressive. When I experience street harassment, my autonomy and control over my own body is taken away from me,” Graves says, again to The Huffington Post. “A similar thing can be seen in the industrialization of farming practices. Animals and women are objectified in similar ways: seen merely as pieces of meat for public consumption.”

By washing away the paint and taking off the noses, Graves regains her own identity. (via The Huffington Post)

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