Ariana Grande has just released the video of her new song “God Is A Woman,” surprising all of her fans who are waiting desperately for the launch of the whole album Sweetener, which will be released on August 17. After the “APES**T” video from The Carters (Beyoncé and Jay-Z), which shocked the art world as it was filmed in the Louvre Museum, considered the cathedral of Western art, it is no surprise to also find art references in this dreamscape of powerful imagery of a young woman controlling not only the world but the whole universe, as a goddess.
Nevertheless, it is not the first time that the idea of God being female comes to the table. Artist Harmonia Rosales recreated the famous Michaelangelo fresco “The Creation of Adam” with black female characters, and filmmakers such as Lars Von Trier in the film Breaking the Waves, or Kevin Smith in Dogma have also featured God as women.
In her video, directed by Dave Meyers, Ariana shows herself as mistress of the universe, dancing with a galaxy as a hula hoop around her waist, sitting on top of planet Earth while moving her fingers in and around what seems to be a bunch of clouds, and lying with her naked torso in the midst of a sea of paint that resembles a vagina. Undeniably, these are clear symbols of both eroticism and female empowerment, which gives us several layers to read in what would otherwise be just another pop video.
Madonna herself makes a spectacular cameo in the middle of the video, playing God and reading a passage from the Bible (Ezekiel 25:17), which is also read by Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction: “I will strike down upon thee, with great vengeance and furious anger, those who attempt to poison and destroy my sisters, and you will know my name is the Lord, when I lay my vengeance upon you.” A truly revealing statement related to the controversial idea of thinking of God as a female character. It could be possible, couldn’t it?
So, how many artistic references can you find in Ariana Grande’s “God Is A Woman”? If it is just the piece at the end, the fresco titled “The Creation of Adam” by Michaelangelo, here we have a few more. Funny coincidence? Most of the references we found are from female artists.
Georgia O’Keefe. “Black Iris,” 1926. // Screenshot of Ariana Grande’s “God Is A Woman”
While we see Ariana in a bed with a black and white background of organic forms and male dancers crawling in foam, it is impossible not to remember Georgia O’Keeffe’s flowers, which resemble female genitalia. Georgia was a woman ahead of her time, challenging male modern artists during the first half of the twentieth century, and she’s definitely the most popular female American artist around the world. Even at the beginning, around the 1920s, she didn’t want her artwork to be referred to as erotic; it was in the 1970s when feminists started celebrating her work.
Tamara de Lempicka. “Skyscrappers”, 1930. // Screenshot of Ariana Grande’s “God Is A Woman”
Tamara de Lempicka
In another scene, Ariana is sitting in front of a city skyline made up of squares and rectangles, which reminds of a painting by Art Deco artist Tamara de Lempicka. Here, a group of tiny men is throwing words at Ariana (words like bitch, stupid, little girl), like the ones almost every woman in a powerful position has to hear at least once from her male peers. Tamara interpreted modernity in the early twentieth century, but also defied the norms by declaring herself bisexual at a time when society was much more conservative.
Kiki Kogelnick. “Superwoman,” 1973 // Screenshot of Ariana Grande’s “God Is A Woman”
Kogelnick might not be as easily recognizable as the other female artists, but she was part of the Pop Art movement, along with Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein. The scene where Ariana is dressed as a goddess holding a hammer reminds us of an artwork called “Superwoman,” which belongs to the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. Quite a statement, right?
This painting, which dates back to 1973, features a woman in a strong and empowering pose. It was not the usual superwoman comics portray, but rather an androgynous character who wears boots, aviator glasses, and red gloves holding a pair of giant scissors. It is said that this was a self-portrait of Kogelnick, as she usually wore a similar style with the sunglasses, and also created pieces from cut paper or vinyl.
Frida Kahlo. “My Birth”, 1932. // Screenshot of Ariana Grande’s “God Is A Woman”
In the same scene, there’s a woman with her legs spread open who seems to be giving birth through a ray of light. This evokes one of Frida Kahlo’s painting, “My Birth,” on which she portrayed a woman giving birth to a baby Frida, apparently. The Mexican painter was one of the first in art’s history to depict female issues in her work, such as miscarriage, betrayal, and female genitalia.
Judy Chicago. “Female Rejection,” 1974. // Screenshot of Ariana Grande’s “God Is A Woman”
Feminist artist Judy Chicago is also present in this video, as Ariana appears to be swimming in a sea of pastel colors. Some of Judy’s representations of female sexual organs are circles or shapes similar to flowers with lots of different shades of red, purple and yellow. These trippy representations are related to the artist’s experimentation with drugs.
Romulo and Remo
What better powerful female representation than the she-wolf that adopted Romulo and Remo? If you could choose an animal to be your mother, I guess you wouldn’t choose a wolf, would you? While Ariana is on all fours, three men are touching her torso, instead of being breastfed like the twins in the Capitaline Wolf sculpture. This icon became a symbol of the Romans, according to mythology.
You might find these stories interesting too:
The Artist Who Believes God Should Be A Black Woman
5 Surrealist Female Painters That Put Dalí To Shame
Discovering The Sumptuous World of India’s Frida Kahlo