Category Archives: art

Normal Is Diverse

Something that should just be normal.

Something that should just be normal.

It’s so important that people see these + that women start to unlearn all the shame that we’ve been taught. It amazes me that in our culture the female body is so over exposed / sexualized + yet vaginas are so taboo + shocking. I think so many women feel disconnected from this part of our bodies + try to avoid or ignore or wish away something that should just be normal. I feel so lucky to see this exhibit. Thank you.” —IRL post from Saturday’s exhibition: Normal Is Diverse, NYC.

It’s not just that we don’t expect diversity among our bodies. It’s that it’s not normal to get to see womxn’s bodies as we are. Ourselves. Not as object. As being.

There is no right way to look.

A man at the exhibition told me that this exhibition was just for women because men seeing this wouldn’t want to have sex again, because it isn’t attractive. I couldn’t begin to reply. I waited to see if he could hear himself claiming vaginas for men like that. His wife was standing next to him. I waited. He pointed out that I did say that I wanted to hear people’s thoughts. (I do.) I was only able to point out that he can speak for himself, but probably not for all men. I was winding down by then. I kind of had cruise control on, enjoying that people were looking, and talking with each other. I didn’t have it in me to cross a gap that wide. My mind was racing reacting. I am standing right in front of you. There are mainly women standing in front of the vagina portraits you’re pointing at. And, still, when you look, you only see a body part, an object for some man’s use?

I know. I know. I need to be more prepared for the conversations I want to have. Most of my training (when not totally avoiding or hanging behind my camera) is in growling an incoherent rant and stomping off though. Often that all happens in my head. I have a lot of work to do.

Image of the Normal Is Diverse exhibition of vagina vérité, Saturday, 08-Dec-2018, at Lower East Side, NYC.

Normal is diverse.

Normal is diverse.

I am only beginning to understand it. I can’t say I actually live that truth on a broad scale in my life, as if it was natural. Though it is. natural. I get that we’re all different, each unique. Even so, I keep expecting something familiar, or more like me, or like what I want, believe I need, or would just be easy, or at least easier. I’m thinking about more than vaginas now. And more than about appearance, but appearance is where we usually begin. And, often it’s where we stay.

When I say I’m only beginning. to understand it, it’s because it runs deep, deep inside us. These assumptions about ourselves and each other. They’re hard to get at: often so familiar that we don’t recognize that we are complicit in maintaining mean fictions. Even when they work against us.  

The hierarchies of power and entitlements that follow from these ideas go against what is plainly apparent. when you just look: that normal is diverse. There is no one right way to be.

But still we keep expecting sameness, judging and demeaning anything other than the stereotype in the media, in our minds, that our families, schools and neighbors told us was the way to be. This stuff runs deep, the right way/wrong way us-and-them view of the world is so old it’s almost invisible. It’s the basis of so much of what we each believe matters, think is true, is to be feared, hated and avoided. So you can’t always tell when you’re part of the problem. Even if you’ve been hurt.

Normal is diverse. We have to keep looking. To see what is. Stop thinking you know. Just look. In the mirror, and at each other. What do you see?

Gabrielle helping me install over 100 vagina portraits.

How does one install 110 vagina portraits?

How does one install 110 vagina portraits? With a laser level, good hair and nails c/o of @havenspanyc aka your best friend and partner in loao (laughing our asses off)!

I’m behind the lens with the upcoming hair date at Haven.

It’s the morning after my first exhibition of vagina vérité in ages and apparently there is no emoji for how full of :lovegratitude: I feel for everyone who had a hand, heart and mind in making it happen with me. Friends and contributors to the project, going back to the beginning (2000!) and at many stops on the way. Artists, performers, speakers and crew of both Vagina Festivals, my unofficial, always has my back staff for all things vagina vérité friends (Marla, Pfunk, Gab) and family (especially my parents!), vagina portrait models, supporters, word-spreaders and believers in diversity as a normal state (not to mention the female body and all it does, on its self-sovereign terms, as a normal state—and a human right). In attendance last night IRL or in spirit.

This is how it’s done, the beautiful meaningful things: always with the help of many. I wish I could name everyone! Each of us a one. to be counted one by one. Not sorted into types and categories and groups of what you think you know about anyone who is not you. Or not like you. No one is like you. Enjoy the beauty of that. Respect everyone else’s right to the same. Expect diversity. It’s normal.

We all have a lot of rethinking to do.

Insert the :lovegratitude: emoji that doesn’t exist yet, but really should. (I canNOT do giphs. We can’t even talk about it, ok?)

vulva diagram, with masking tape

vulva diagram on tracing paper

vulva diagram on tracing paper, with masking tape

I guess the tape means I used have this up on a wall in my apartment.

Diagrams and illustrations are helpful, information. The vagina portraits are more than that. They’re a mirror, even if it’s not your portrait you’re looking at. Because gathered together, as they will be for the normal is diverse exhibition, they become more than a document, depicting more than an aspect of someone, one. They’re a collective mirror.

You’ll see if you attend the exhibition next month. More like, you’ll feel it. Your stories lived in your body, your stories about women’s bodies, will recognize themselves in the faces of these vagina portraits.

 

program cover for Vagina Festival 2007, designed by Robyn Desposito

Our first vagina festival

In 2007, we kicked off our first Vagina Festival.

It was a visual and performance art experience, where we proudly and provocatively presented women’s most personal stories and most private parts.

It was a weekend event that celebrated the intersecting commonalities in women’s lives. And from that space of community, the participating artists asked us to consider what so many women endure daily–abuse, rape, sexual slavery and genital mutilation–and, to envision a world of peace and respect.

Vagina Festival was an opportunity to see, hear and talk about what too-rarely gets talked about.

A  space for conversation.

The first Vagina Festival as part of V-Day’s Worldwide Campaign to end violence against women. We did have some important conversations there. We didn’t go far enough. I mean I didn’t.

Vagina Festival 2007 took place in Agni Gallery in the East Village, NYC. 

Call_for_Artists_poster.indd

This is one of the flyers I posted to invite artists.

Poster art above by @robyndesposito.

normal is diverse postcard invitation front

Save the date

Over the course of ten years, I photographed over 100 vagina portraits.

I wanted us to see for ourselves, that we are indeed unique and interesting. To deliver the message that how you are is how you’re supposed to be. Because it’s normal that we are all different.

I shot from the point of view reserved for gynecologists and lovers (sometimes). The images are square and a little larger than life to properly extend the invitation to look. Because I don’t think we really really look at each other. Slowly. Openly. With interest in the other. So, this is a chance to try that out. To take your time.

There were no stylists, no details about the model to set the mood for fantasy or to objectify us—just the everyday vagina in plain view. Each strikingly unique. I did my best to keep myself out of it. To make some initial decisions about the composition and then get out of the way, and let you see what you see for yourself.

The normal is diverse exhibition takes place on Saturday, 08-Dec-2018 from 4-8pm at Ludlow Studios, 40 Ludlow Street, NYC 10002. Ludlow Studios is both a photography studio and an exhibition space. I have to say, it’s an ideal venue for this exhibition. It’s roomy and kind of cozy at the same time. 

This will be the first time the v-portraits have been exhibited since 2010.

It’s free, but space is limited, so RSVP to save your space.

vagina vérité is a collective mirror of our individuality, expressed through an endlessly interesting aspect ourselves, the faces of our vaginas.

It raises a lot of questions.

It’s an opportunity to have conversations we don’t usually get to have. Out loud, or privately. While viewing, or later. Or not. It’s personal, yOur experience. Come by and see what you think, and feel.

It’s for my friend. I don’t believe I’ve properly answered her question yet.

It’s for, and about, women. Everyone who is interested is welcome.—Alexandra