“My Viking Vagina
It’s such a pity this book is in black and white. I am a redhead and my pubic hair is a rich, red gold, thick and curly and abundant, unique.
Back in high school the boys would ask if I had ‘red pubes’. Protecting myself from the taunting that arises from any kind of difference, I would lie and respond, “Of course not, it’s black, just like yours”. They seemed satisfied with my answer and the questions stopped.
Then, in art class there was a girl who’d moved to our country town from Canada. She was mature, street wise, creative and brilliant. For her painting project she decided to paint three naked women.
Of the three huge canvases, the first displayed a woman who was skinny and black, with tribal adornments about her hips and pert breasts. The second was a Mediterranean woman, with voluptuous curves and long black hair.
The third painting was my undoing. She was round and pink-skinned like a piglet, with a nest of tight fire-truck red curls embellishing her head, and her pubic mound. I was devastated in being outed in this way. I can’t remember the taunts afterward, but god I hated her for her thoughtless act of exposure.
Now, far beyond the pain of adolescence, I can celebrate my uniqueness. I just wish that I could now display it in this book in all its glory… just one page in colour??”
Help end violence against women and girls. http://onebillionrising.org/
I just signed up to this campaign, no hesitation.
It was The Vagina Monologues after all that first inspired me to do this project. The author, Eve Ensler, founded the V-Day foundation, who are running this campaign.
I have contacted them to see if I can host a V-Day event in conjunction with the book launch and exhibition, will see if they are up for that.
Check it out and sign up.
“8th of May, 2011
This piece is dedicated to – the beauty of my vagina. :)
The potential violence/ power/ debilitation of self-consciousness:
I didn’t start becoming self-conscious of my vagina until I had wanted to be sexually intimate with boys. Suddenly I had a whole new perspective of my vagina – the critical eye had awoken. It looked uglier and darker, and the labia minoras were larger than I had remembered. I agonised over this for weeks, not allowing my boyfriend to touch me or see my vagina as I tried to sort out what to do – the situation needed to be “fixed”, clearly not accepted.
Because I was fairly ashamed, I didn’t feel I could talk to anyone else; I was debilitated, stuck in my own despair and unease.
One desperate night I had the urge to pick up the scissors, head to the bathroom and try to chop my labia minoras back, to trim them short and neat, like my labia majoras. I sat there agonizing over the procedure, balancing the possibilities of: how easy it would be, how much it would hurt and how desperate I was.
…I spent several hours there, for several nights over the space of several months.
Each time, I would begin to cut into the skin, feeling the cold metal against my soft flesh and realising the pain I was going to inflict on myself – there had to be another way! I wasn’t aware of labial reconstruction, even if I was, I probably would have been too embarrassed to admit the supposed imperfection.
Thus, as our relationship continued, I continued to hide my vagina, not allowing him to touch or see it, even the first time we made love. This ashamedness continued on less severely through a relationship with another boy who openly and lovingly praised my vagina and its beauty, however, I had not found it in myself to love and cherish it.
However, with time, I have come to appreciate, and open to the wonders of my vagina because of the beauty, pleasure, sacredness and transcendental experiences she embodied and can offer me at any time. The external expectations and images in my mind of what a vagina should be like have faded away. I have moved away from the dis-ease and towards beginning to realise the vastness of feminine beauty.
I now look at my vagina with awe, gratitude and reverence – she is truly amazing.
However, I still have so far to go on the path of honouring, revering and listening to her. Viva la vagina!”
101 Vagina made it into The Australian today, a glorious 19 whole words worth!
And I was interviewed by MX Brisbane, who will pass the story to Sydney and Melbourne MX also, for a possible article in the next few days. The woman I spoke to there said that MX have a bit more freedom to cover quirky stories than the main stream news papers, so it seems this is right up their ally :)
The Australian mention reads:
PRESS release heading of the day: “101 Vagina – Taboo smashing coffee table book – Seeking participants.” Don’t panic, It’s art.”
Here is a scan below, ignore the other articles.
Media release: More participants required for 101 Vagina – the taboo-smashing coffee-table book project
Media release: 1 May 2012
More participants required for
101 Vagina – the taboo smashing coffee table book project
“Dear Vagina, at first you were playful fun without me having any understanding of what you were. Then for quite a while you were mysterious and unknown, and I didn’t know why, but I wasn’t comfortable knowing you too well. Then we became friends and have been growing ever closer since. I’m glad that I know you.”
The 101 Vagina Project is creating a coffee table book of simple, beautiful black and white images of vaginas accompanied by a message from or about her vagina to the world.
The goal is to include 101 women, as the title suggests, and is currently sitting at 69, so we need 32 more!
So far everyone has been white and mainly 20-50. It would be great to include some black, brown and much older women.
Besides that, there is also the opportunity for women to share a vagina related experience on the blog section of the website.
At some point it may feel appropriate to open the blog up to men sharing vagina-related experiences and 101 Penis is on the cards.
People interested in participating can visit the website or write to email@example.com
The creator, Philip Werner, is available for interviews in person or by phone.
- Take photographs of 101 vaginas using a 1960’s medium format Rolleiflex with black and white film. I love the process of using it and love the quality of film. Digital backup shots will also be taken.
- Collate and arrange photos and text into a coffee table style hard-cover book
- Publish the book via a publisher or by self-publishing and arrange a book launch and exhibition
- Break down guilt, shame, taboo or stigma surrounding vaginas
- Create an object of simple, aesthetic beauty in the form of a coffee table book
- Give participants a way to send a message to the world from or about their vaginas
- Show the variety and beauty of vaginas, in particular to women who tend to see fewer than men
- Be able to donate a bunch of cash to non-profit groups which support women in various ways
- Challenge the status quo.
I was first inspired by reading The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler while travelling in the USA in 2007. I continue to be inspired by it and the organisation Eve has created, V-day, to end violence against women, along with many other similar organisations.
The idea of doing a coffee table book arose after returning to Australia and I had started doing some nude photography.
Since starting the project I have come across other similar or related projects by other artists which continue to inspire this project. Above all I am inspired by vaginas and their owners!
Participation is anonymous.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Philip Werner was born in Germany in 1973 and migrated to Australia with his family at the age of 11. Germany has a proud history of nude bathing (FKK – Freie Koerper Kultur – Free Body Culture), saunas in Germany are almost all mixed and swim wear is not worn. Bravo, the most popular magazine for teenagers in Germany, has a two-page spread where readers, a girl and a boy, participate in a nude shoot and share their body-related experiences and attitudes ranging from puberty and menstruation, first sexual experiences, hangups and hobbies etc. So Germans grow up in a culture where the body is normal and accepted – much more so than in most Anglo-based cultures, like Australia, where there is still a lot of shame around the body, nudity and genitalia.
With this background Philip was always dismayed at the shame and guilt people carry about their bodies and nudity in particular, and was delighted when he discovered the movements that aim to turn these attitudes around and help people free themselves from the guilt and shame they feel.
Photographically, Philip has been around cameras all his life with both his parents being keen photographers. He launched his website in 2008 in order to share his passion, and has since turned the hobby into a part-time profession. His main interest is in portraiture, seeking always to capture people authentically.
Websites where his work is exhibited include:
There are two main ways that people can participate in this project, people can do either or both.
1. Vagina Photograph and Message for inclusion in the book.
Women can participate by having their vagina photographed and writing a message from or about their vagina to the world, to be included in the book.
2. Vagina Story for the blog
Women can also participate by sending in a vagina related story, poetry or art for inclusion in the blog section of the website.
Anyone interested in participating may email firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT ABOUT 101 PENIS?
Yes, I have registered the domain and intend to take this on once 101 Vagina is more complete.
WEBSITE AND CONTACT DETAILS
101 Vagina home page
101 Vagina blog
Please call or email to arrange and interview.