I want to share with you another body of work that is very similar to my own, and tell you about my story of discovering it.
Since its birth in 2020, I was under the ignorant impression that I was the first and only ceramist to include live cast vulva's in their work. Just 5 months ago, I discovered that was not the case. In 2016, a group of self proclaimed feminist artists created the “Vagina China Project". The work itself is beautiful, and has deep ties to feminist art history, paying homage to the many decorative plates that came before its "inaugural set" "Vulva la Résistance". (-Vagina China)
You can learn more about the project and it's historical ties to "The Famous Women Dinner Service" by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant; and to "The Dinner Party" by Judy Chicago, by watching this video:
After discovering the "Vagina China Project" I had a moment of self doubt and shame that I was not indeed making entirely “original” or “ground breaking” art, for it had been done before, and was indorsed by a hero and icon on mine Judy Chicago. I then read this bit from the Vagina China's website:
" Participating in the Vagina China project is open to anyone who identifies as a woman.
...we fully understand that this does not include all people that identify as female, male, or transgender" (-Vagina China)
This of course implying that trans women, who do indeed “identify as woman” would not be welcome to be included in the work.
It was then that I realized the importance of my art, and the separation it has from this 'predecessor'. My art has been, and always will be INCLUSIVE. Representation and inclusivity matter. I was indeed different. Not just in the execution of forms, colors and style, but in who I allowed to be part of my collective art healing. I have already cast serval non binary and trans vulvas, and have always been open to casting trans and non-binary penises. Why? Because body casting should be for everyone. I will never be a platform for TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists). Queer and gender non-conforming people will always have a safe space in my studio.
I don't mean to make this blog post to shame or criticize the Vagina China Project. Rather, I was to share with you why it's so important for art to build on art, and for your work to get out there. Feminist art of today shouldn't be the same as feminist art from 2016. We should always be striving to be better, to do better, and to make art that is reflective of our own values.
Let this be a lesson to all of you- your unique perspective and voice is what truly matters. It isn't important if something has ‘been done before’. What matters is that your voice is heard, that your perspective is shown, and that we continue to build upon, and grow from those who have come before us.
I want to leave you with a statement I have collected from a trans- gender non-conforming person who had their vulva cast:
“Getting my vulva molded was an empowering experience. Also very emotional. As a trans, A-gendered human being raised female I felt a lot of shame having a vulva. As I am growing and learning more about myself I am constantly being reminded that there is nothing shameful of having a vulva. It is such a beautiful, strong body part and endures so much. I am very grateful that Janelle creates a safe, loving, open space for people to be vulnerable and to let those of us with vulvas to reconnect with ourselves.”
Sources and links: