Throughout history, artists have used flowers to represent women and female sexuality. It doesn’t take much to see the connection. Flowers are beautiful and delicate, and the men who have created the works of art that define our notions about art come from societies that see women in the same way. Flowers are also symbols of fertility and life, which are associated with women for obvious (and biological) reasons. However, there is one more reason why women and flowers has always been a thing in art: the resemblance. Vaginas kind of look like flowers. If you don’t believe me, google Georgia O’Keeffe, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Something about the shape, the petals, and the darkness at the heart of a flower can remind us of vaginas.
This is the context behind Wanda Orme’s photographs. Orme is a model, writer, visual artist, and photographer. This artist from Isle of Man creates stunning images of nude women adorned with flowers. Her photos definitely borrow from that long history of art that we were just talking about, but there’s something different about them. What makes them different is that, in these photographs, female sexuality is not equated to the delicate beauty of a flower. Instead, flowers represent the vibrant energy and life that emanate from the body of a woman that is beautiful, but also strong. In other words, the women here are not just beautiful objects for the viewer to look at, but rather independent subjects who look for, create, and enjoy their pleasure all on their own.
In this way, female pleasure is at the heart of Orme’s project as an artist. Her photos are meant to look beautiful, but they are also supposed to say something about the role of our own pleasure in our lives and society. In order to communicate her message, she creates images that make us want to look. The light and colors are soft and subtle. And the women are young, beautiful, and engaging. Their poses are sensual yet relaxed. Their eyes are closed because they are completely carried away by the pleasure they are experiencing. Their pleasure is for them and for them only.
Even the images that depict masturbation are beautiful and tasteful. What would look vulgar and almost aggressive in porn, here looks artistic. Masturbation is, of course, one of society’s biggest taboos when it comes to sexuality. Although it’s a part of life, and there is nothing dirty, wrong, or harmful about it, there’s still a lot of shame surrounding it, and most people feel embarrassed to talk about it in public. Female masturbation, in particular, is even more of a taboo because anything that has to do with women’s bodies and sexuality is still an issue for patriarchal society. In this way, making art that makes us look at women masturbating or enjoying their bodies and their sexuality without any inhibitions is radical and, I would add, revolutionary. This is exactly what Orme is doing in her photos. By showing women who don’t need a man to be sexual, as well as unashamed to fully enjoy themselves and feel all the pleasure their bodies can offer, Orme is challenging traditional views about women and sexuality. She is saying that being sexual for ourselves is not only natural, but also beautiful.
This idea is the essence of Orme’s work, but also one of the pillars of feminism. Like her, so many other feminist and sex-positive artists from around the world are creating art that makes us rethink all we’ve been taught regarding women’s sexuality. Whether it’s films, music, literature or images like these, feminist art aims to bring female pleasure out of the shadows of repression and fear, and into the light of exploration and enjoyment.
I'm sure you'll agree that Orme’s images will definitely make a memorable and beautiful contribution to this movement.
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