This was no ordinary day.
I was on my way to the studio of Australian artist Greg Taylor to have a portrait of my cunt sculpted.
Was I nervous? A little bit but I have a good way of coping in these situations which is basically to not think about it. "It's just like going to the doctor" was about the extent of my thought process.
I've long admired Greg's work and met him back in 2001 to talk about the exhibition 'CUNTS' that he was working on. Later in 2008, I went to the opening of the exhibition at Melbourne's Meat Market Gallery (unfortunate pun) and was overwhelmed with admiration for his work.
I'd only opened Passionfruit a couple of years before I met Greg. I was beginning to notice that there was a lot of shame around the vulva, largely I felt due to the proliferation of porn and its skewed version of female genitals.
The Australian government were largely to blame because the OFLC (Australia's classification body) deemed that only 'neat' vulvas were allowed to be seen in X rated videos and magazines. The classification board literally photoshopped every single vulva that came across their computer that wasn't 'neat' ie. smaller inner lips than outer lips. The Australian Family Association believed that the imagery of vulvas was ‘offensive’ and ‘degrading’ to women. No wonder my customers were ashamed of their own bodies.
Labiaplasty was growing in popularity as the version of what was 'normal' was becoming abhorrently misrepresented. It was the stuff of sci-fi horror movies. I wrote a blog way back in 2010 which you can read here and there were TV and radio shows discussing the phemomenon.
For me, as a feminist sex store owner and sex positive educator, Greg's work helped to enable a discourse about the way we see our bodies, our selves and our sexuality. Inga Muscio's book/manifesto 'Cunt: A Declaration of Independance' was also a huge influence on me (and Greg as it turned out) at the time.
Greg's exhibition has gone on to great acclaim, although it wasn't without controversy, and now permanently graces the walls of MONA, where it is still the most talked about collection in their history.
(Image courtesy of MONA)
And so to this extraordinary day and my own portrait.
Greg and I had been talking about collaborating on and off over the years and the wheels were finally being set in motion.
It was a warm summer morning in February 2018 when I stepped into Greg's studio. We were both a little nervous as Greg hadn't done a cunt portrait for years and I had never had one! After a bit of chit chat it was time to get down to business and Greg left the room while I dropped my knickers and sat up on the arranged furniture.
The first few minutes were somewhat uncomfortable but I quickly relaxed and started to enjoy myself. After all, it's not everyday you get to have your portrait taken. I was quite proud of myself.
It won't be the same for everybody, but I found the experience to be quite a transformational process. It's another way of getting to see oneself, besides just looking in the mirror (which isn't particularly practical for those of us with a vulva). And then to see the portrait, which isn't either pornographic or medical, and think wow, yes that is amazing, mysterious and beautiful is quite a rare and unique feeling. Greg has created another way to explore one’s body and one's self/
Greg's talent with clay is extraordinary and it is quite a privilege to be in the midst of a great artist. He is committed to his vision of the individual being proud of her cunt - a word that is possibly the most vile in the English language and yet is a most wondrous part of the female body. His intent is to reclaim the word and our vision of this most precious part of ourselves.
My portrait took about two hours to complete. I drove home in a bit of a fog feeling completely awesome and absolutely thrilled that we could begin to offer this amazing experience to everybody through the store
Once I left Greg's studio, the work really began for him. It takes him 2-3 weeks to finish the clay sketch, take a mold, set it and cure it. After that it is wrapped in a silk lined, wooden box and delivered.
My portrait was delivered today and it is, indeed, beautiful. My most treasured object and topic of...'another cunt conversation'.
Greg Taylor is now offering Cunt Portraits to all Passionfruit customers. They are undertaken in our upstairs studio at a time of your convenience. Contact me at email@example.com to arrange a sitting.
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