The Vagina Dentata Series
c/w: sexual violence, childhood trauma, medical mistreatment
ink, pastel & acrylic on yupo. January-May 2015. Reproductions available in various sizes- please reach out directly if interested.
Titles from left to right, top to bottom: Cowrie, Broken, Vestibulitis, Trapped, Memories, Roots, Blood Pain, Hand, Mapping, Shared Tears
Sexual violence is often perceived as a “Women’s Issue,” as if it were something gender specific and easily corralled into one type of lived experience. Instead, it really is a societal issue - everyone’s issue - and is certainly not limited to one gender expression.
Within the text of the vagina dentata myth, present in many cultures dating back to ancient times, the vagina is first pathologised as an intensely dangerous space, due to the presence of teeth, and then subjugated to torturous extraction of those teeth through either phallically induced destruction or plier based ripping out. I see this myth, in all of its forms, as an attempt to justify the violent oppression of women.
Through taking away the female body’s power, by ripping out its teeth, there is an excuse to treat the remaining woman as weak. It is my aim in this work to add to the conversation questioning expectations of women’s sexual behavior in society, especially in terms of combatting the acceptance of abuse as normative.
Personal memories of violence are hugely motivational in the work and are buttressed by anecdotal disclosures from both close friends and strangers who have shared stories of their trauma with me. Issues of representation in medical literature and practice are brought up in the context of knowledge control and distribution. There is often a confrontational line between the medically relevant and the culturally taboo that directly affects women’s health choices and experiences. This manifestation of oppression is reducible to the restrictive cultural attitude that continues to prevail.
Reincorporating teeth into the female genitalia is a way of representing the reclamation of offensive, defensive, and expressive potential that the mythical ripping and knocking out had erased. Each of the ten drawings in the Vagina Dentata Series includes lyrical lines of feeling. Many are hard and painful, but others are seeking a more correct path, a healed future. My hope for this work is that it begins conversations that are long overdue, and stands in solidarity with those who sexual violence has affected.
Senior Capstone written about this work: click to download the 20 page paper