When you take a look at Lady Skollie’s artwork, the first thing you notice and that automatically entices you is her use of bright and contrasting colors. The elongated figures in suggestive and yet friendly poses invite you to explore each part of their playful bodies. Accompanied by the tones that shape them, they become a magnet so powerful that you can’t help but get closer, wishing to be part of those scenes. Once you see all the little details, reality hits you out of nowhere, erasing that smile and taking away the joy you felt at the beginning. Each detail and stroke depicts an aspect of the sad reality of our lives, leaving you with the question: how can an image that gave you a playful depiction of sexuality also show such a dark truth?
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Laura Windvogel creates amazingly enticing paintings that create an important dialogue she calls the “politics of lust”. What is lust? We can probably all agree that it is that intense urge we feel to engage in carnal relationships. It’s that drive that turns us on and pushes us to seek pleasure. But that urge can also mean a hunger or thirst for power, to impose our will and desires above everything else. The politics of lust present in Lady Skollie’s paintings invite us to question the true essence of sexuality. Is it a natural expression of humanity? To what extent are we capable of subverting the morals and behaviors of our kind?
Everything about this artist is related to her main themes. Take her name, for instance. “Skollie” in South Africa means “troublemaker”. The term is often used to refer to those rebellious young men who don’t follow the rules and just do what they want. “Lady,” by contrast, carries a very strong cultural baggage in South Africa related to white women during and after colonial times. So, by taking various elements and contrasting them, she’s making a strong statement about notions of race and gender, which is also very present in her work.
If you take a look at her paintings, you’ll notice that most of her paintings feature black figures, mostly female, that have either many limbs, or papayas instead of heads, or both. She explains that this is a comment on the fetishization of black women’s bodies she grew up seeing in her native country. This is basically the core of her art: showing the world the realities of her country, what she and so many others witness and endure in a time when these things shouldn’t be happening.
Lady Skollie’s art is full of commentary on race, sex and desire. More specifically, it talks about the idea of consent, which the artist explains as a real problem in South Africa as well as the rest of the world. Rape and sexual violence are an everyday reality in her country, where CNN statistics show that 142.2 rapes occur every day. It is also a country where one in four men admitted in a survey to have committed rape at least once in their lives. We’re talking about numbers so high that what should be seen as an unthinkable tragedy has become the norm. The fact that barely anything is being done about it is scandalous.
Here is where the politics of lust come into play. Is it acceptable to follow those urges and desires with absolute disregard for the other person’s consent? As Skollie mentions, the levels of HIV, teen pregnancy, and abuse are on unsuspected levels, and all these share the same core problem: the sexist idea of men’s dominance over women in terms of sexuality. Because of this, women are still objectified and treated without any kind of respect. They’re just a recipient for men to channel all their sexual impulses with no consequences.
But although the issues she’s portraying in her paintings (mostly done with watercolor, ink and crayon) are difficult to think about, her use of colors and shapes add a playful vibe that shows her characteristically bold, sarcastic, and audacious sense of humor. How do you challenge old yet enduring sexist and racist values? Through pushing the boundaries of political correctness, making the audience uncomfortable as well as drawn to the colors and the beauty of her art, she presents images of situations that we tend to look away from.
Lady Skollie also hosts a podcast called Kiss and Tell in which she discusses these issues. If you want to learn more about her art and her activities, take a look at her official Instagram page: @ladyskollie
Take a look at these: