Series 1 celebrates vulva diversity using made from scratch pies. Or rather, this is one facet of Series 1. When I started, I wasn’t really sure what I was celebrating. What I had was a compulsion to create realistic figure sculptures of the vulva with pie crust.
Being acutely aware of all the double entendres and double edge swords of being a woman wielding genitals as my subject, I think this all overwhelmed me quickly. I started my project from my cis-gender female point of view of wanting to depict realistic vulvas on pies and my thoughts and views expanded with the project.
My first problem was where to find real vulvas that were detailed enough to sculpt. A lot of times, artists will use models or photos they have taken for a resource. It’s best practice to use your own resources to avoid violating copyright laws. However, I didn’t know where to begin with this sensitive subject and I was eager to get a start on the work.
So I did the next best thing. I searched for copyright free images and found an endless supply of images at Wikimedia Commons! If you’ve never used it, it’s an invaluable resource for artists. There was a panel posted there from the Gynodiversity that was just a beautiful display of diverse bodies and their vulvas.
From those two resources and other Google searches on “real vulvas” I fell into depths of body image issues, body acceptance, vulva diversity, and labiaplasty. It was overwhelming, and I knew I could address so many things at once. I focused in on the pie metaphor and the body diversity.
When I began my vulva art, I didn’t know there were other people making vulva art. There are a huge amount of artisans and fine artists focusing on the vulva as a subject for their art making too! Apparently, I had been living under a rock! Then again, middle aged women in America don’t make a practice of talking about our genitals and rocking genital art, at least not any I know. Now I know what a tragedy that is.
Even in market places, like Etsy, there are pages upon pages on vulva artists. They sometimes prefer yoni artist or vagina artist, but they are all focused on making genital art about the vulva. It was unreal that I had been missing out on this entire community of artists even though I thought I was well versed in women’s art and women’s issues.
It was also so heartwarming to be welcomed by so many other artists when I started posting. I have never felt so loved or understood as an artist in my life- well, other than when telling a room full of first graders we were going to do clay in art class- that’s a whole unreal level of enthusiasm!
In short, I learned I knew shamefully little about vulvas, my own or others. I did not know that there were so many ways a vulva could look. 12 pies what NOT going to be enough!
73% of women don’t know what a vulva is and almost half have felt embarrassed by the appearance of their vulva. Afterall, we mostly see the small labia and very tidy to no pubic hair in the entertainment industry.
Labia can be up to 3.75 inches (9.5 cm) long, with the average length being 1.69 inches (4.3cm.) The labia majora can be up to 8 inches (18cm) long. The average clitoris is .27″ (7mm) and then that just covers the visible part- now we know that is just the tip!
The color varies from dark grey to light pink. Sometimes all on the same vulva. The mons pubis also changes throughout life depending on hormones, weight and other life conditions.
SO KNOW THIS: Your vulva is totally normal in appearance unless it’s causing you physical pain or discomfort!
I also want to say this here, even though I didn’t learn this while doing my art: Genitals do not determine gender. This is a concept that has been really hard for many to grasp, but it really doesn’t have to be.
A person will tell you their gender if you ask, and you should accept it. There is no reason for you to question them or doubt them. It’s not any of your business what it looks like between their legs unless they invite you to see.
Recently I was asked to help a master’s degree candidate by answering some question to support of her research. Her work is focused on ending violence against women. She contributes the lack of comprehensive sex education in western society to our shameful statistics of violence. What’s really cool is that she will use her research to design a sex education for men and women.
Being a huge research nerd, I truly love helping anyone further their educational pursuits. Alice approached me on Instagram and needless to say, I was honored to help. You might enjoy the answers too.
I have a degree in painting and am a certified art teacher for pre-K through 12th grade. As a teacher, I felt a lot of shame surrounding my personal art work. I always used symbolism to narrate my views and tried to stay away from anything too controversial. Even when dealing with issues that disturbed me, such as female genital mutilation.
Feeling like I couldn’t be myself as an artist pushed me further and further away from my art. Eventually, I turned to baking and dessert decorating as a creative outlet. (I even ran my own bakery for 5 years!)
During the pandemic, in around December 2020, the idea just came to me one day to make my personal art using desserts as my media. I felt strongly that beautifully and realistically representing the vulva, which is crudely referred to as a hair pie or cream pie here, would be a first step is reclaiming that imagery- or at least challenging it as a demoralizing/ objectifying title.
(Full Question: You have grew a large following and the response to your work has been amazing. There is clearly a demand for this kind of female representation. Why do you think, although women are highly sexualised, vaginas are such a huge stigma?)
In our patriarchal society, women’s bodies are considered being for men’s pleasure/ use and for having babies. Yet, no one wants to see the vagina or vulva when they’re birthing or talk about them in relation to women’s pleasure, or in any way that is not cis gender normative. It seems to be beyond the grasp of the general population to see the vulva in a non-sexualized way. So, there becomes this deep, inner conflict for a lot of us vulva owners who are also artists. It’s the center of our anatomy and this source of strength, pleasure, and pain, but we are mostly supposed to pretend it doesn’t exist or treat it like a gift we get to share with the most deserving of men.
If I really keep going here, we literally cannot step onto public transportation or walk down a street without thinking about our genitals and breasts because we are in danger because we have them. They teach us to cover them, keep them from jiggling, use them to get attention, etc. and then it becomes this huge moral issue on top of it all.
I suspect until the vulva is under the control of the vulva owner to do with as they please; we are going to have this power struggle and it will continue to have the stigma.
(Full Question: On your website, you talk about the contrast between expectations of women. First, the maternal homemaker along with the highly objectified sex symbol. Do you believe your art is a metaphoric ‘fuck you’ to this narrative?)
Absolutely. It is me taking my traditional homemaking skills and my art making skills to create these beautiful diverse vulvas that people find shocking and lovely and immediately want to know what in the world is going on.
It’s also a big part of it to me they are for art and not food- it’s always assumed they are for consumption, just like our actual bodies- but that’s a part of it that not everyone gets.
(Full Question: I noticed on your Instagram page that your first removed art depicted a black vagina. I feel like I have a responsibility, as a student bringing awareness to violence against women, to highlight that gender-based violence is more common for women of colour. Do you think there needs to be more awareness around this problem? ) See Pie 26 here
There definitely does. I have a powerful belief that we all must care for one another as women and that we cannot say we have social justice until we have the same care for all of our sisters. We have to keep confronting biases within ourselves, on social media, and in our communities.
Yes. I think it’s centuries and centuries and toxic social norms and patriarchal thinking. Women and men uphold the status quo and even when we have time periods of substantial progress.
Menstruation, sexuality, sexual desire, smell, age, appearance, discharge… these are some stigmas around the vulva.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could step forward together and say time’s up for these archaic fears and beliefs? It would be a different world, for sure. I know I’m not the only one who is ready to make some positive changes.
I feel extremely hopeful and excited to be part of the movement of feminist artists creating vulva art and sex positive art to dispel stigmas and taboos about the vulva and vagina.
Stigmas close associate, taboo, makes it nearly impossible to dispel the stigma, and around and around we go. Trapped in cultural and societal norms that do not benefit us and, in fact, only cause harm.
Self hatred, shame, false beliefs, negative mindset, feeling hopeless, even suicidal all over being born with a vulva may seem like hyperbole, but I don’t know a vulva owner who has shared none of these feelings.
The way we are born and naturally are is something we are told to change from the moment we know we have it. Hide it, don’t touch it, and Heavens forbid, don’t enjoy it, don’t talk about, tame it, groom it, make it smell nice, keep all of its fluids hidden, keep it tight, don’t let it age, only share it with the one… I’m exhausted just trying to list this all out for you!
If we cast all of this list aside and emerge as body positive, self-loving humans, we hit the wall of the next level in the game: sex positivity and liberated vulvas are a threat to polite society.
Lustful beings with opinions and demands for equality would run rampant throughout the planet! Perhaps they would even hold power and change the world. It would be… quite nice.
Right? There is much work to be done!
There is debate over whether presenting the vulva is empowering or degrading. The arguments against it always sound like my grandma was whispering in their ear. Things like:
Personally, I think these types of arguments sound like my grandma. She was so worried about her reputation and so mean mouthed about women that she thought were loose and used their bodies to get what they wanted.
When you break down the arguments, you find a lot of fear that stems from our sex negative society.
When I started making my vulva pies, I didn’t know there was an entire world of vulva art and vulva artists out there. After posting my work on Instagram and using hashtags to help people find my art, I began connecting with so many amazing artists. Here are a few of my favorites:
Lucy Churchill – “For 25 years I was happy to sculpt to commission–giving form to other people’s stories. This changed when, emboldened by the MeToo movement, I confronted my past. It was a traumatic experience that proved to be a liberating turning point for me–as a woman and as an artist.”
Lydia Reeves – “I want my work to have a positive impact on how people see not only their bodies, but how they see themselves as a whole.”
Jamie Bates Sloan– “I create work that resonates universally while simultaneously reflecting my own unique experiences. I choose to sculpt the female body in all of its operations, using scale, vignette, and color to encourage the viewer to further confront their own psyche and presumptions.”
Jacqueline Secor– “Choosing to portray vulvae as parts of nature is not about trying to make them “prettier” but about showing vulvae as they are: integral elements of the natural world we are a part of. The beauty, the strength, the very survival of nature depends on diversity.“
If you like deep reading about stigma and taboo, you might enjoy this as much as I did:
To see more of my art, head over to The Window.
It makes me cringe to read the title of my post, but I really want to talk about it. Some random person I don’t know posted a screenshot of my first series of vulva pies to a random place on the internet and that began a sharing frenzy. It got so bad near Thanksgiving and Christmas that I was getting daily messages from people who had seen my art out in the wild.
The first time I saw them was on a popular Instagram page of self-proclaimed Yoni Queen, Rosie Rees. As soon as I let her know they were mine, she gave me credit and followed me and it was a great interaction. So there is a silver lining. She loves women and their bodies and she reposted them to celebrate vulva diversity. The only issue out of the gate was she gave them gender. There were a few comments about it, but it all stayed cordial.Read More
Creating these vulva pies has been one of my greatest pleasures as an artist. If anyone had told me that one day I would put together all of my baking skills and art skills and make pie art featuring vulvas, I would have laughed and thought they were crazy. Yet, here we are.
As vulva owners and women, there is a lot of focus on our reproductive organs. Legislation and political debate, societal norms and stigmas, sexual choices and lifestyle, pleasure and reproduction. Everyone has an opinion and often, our own desires are disregarded.
The objectification of women is common. They separate us from our body parts and serve us to the public, much like a pie. Women are sexualized and throughout the world the injustices against women are too many to list.
I have never met a woman who hasn’t experienced sexual harassment, whether verbal or physical. Our shared experiences of navigating a world where we are easily victims and vulnerable conflict with the sexual power that we often learn to wield instead of enjoy.
I say all this not to whine, but as a matter of fact. I do not feel like I have a lot of power to change any of it, but as an artist, making these vulva pies is one way I am processing it.
Pie is a well-known euphemism for the vulva, at least here in the United States. However, it’s usually not used in an empowering way. It’s used in place of the proper term for vulva or vagina. At worst, it’s used vulgarly by people who see vulvas as consumable products with words like hair pie, pussy pie, cream pie, and vagina pie.
In my vulva pie art, I am referencing the all of those uses of the word pie. I am internalizing it and reclaiming the layers of symbolism. The layers of meaning here are as important as the layers of pie crust.
My life as a woman with a vulva, an artist, and a baker culminates in creating this artwork. Truly, I am following a tradition of feminist artist who have also used food as art. (Here’s a great article, “8 Women Who Turned Food Into Feminist Art” over on Artsy.net.)
The whole women, kitchen, food thing is huge.
It causes me great pain to see us (vulva owners) burdened with the stigmas and taboos associated with our bodies. We have all these voices from the entertainment industry, our families, our friends, and the omnipresent social media presenting us with beauty standards, hygiene products, and unsolicited information.
We often end up with a negative view of ourselves before we even reach adolescence.
Pornography is where most of us encounter uncensored views of naked bodies. However, those bodies aren’t there for educational purposes. Pornography exists for entertainment and fantasy. It can have the same impact on us mentally as comparing ourselves to movie and magazine standards of beauty.
This vulva art is based on real vulvas without censoring size, shape, wrinkles, or appearance.
Creating these pies is a reclamation and a celebration of natural beauty and diversity. Presenting the vulva in this way doesn’t objectify it, it glorifies it. All of my fellow yoni artists and vulva artists get this. There is an entire community of artist paying homage to divine feminine energy and celebrating vulva power!
Although, my personal perspective as an artist is from my life experience as a woman with a vulva, it’s essential to say that not all people with vulvas are women and not all women have vulvas. This is important to understand when talking about bodies and gender.
If you like stories, here is how the idea of me making the first vulva pies for Pies in the Window began:
One very early, cold morning in December of 2020, I was writing my morning pages at the kitchen table and the idea struck me to make this art. Struck, as in, hit hard, as if by lightning. I didn’t know where it was going, but I decided it felt very important, divinely inspired even, and I had to go with it. I don’t think I have ever in my life been so scared by an art idea.
The idea was to take all the double entendres and symbolism of food/ baking and tie it together with figure art and feminist issues.
I attempted to share the fledgling idea with my husband, as I am often quick to share. Yet, I was so excited and my idea was so new that it just sounded like a crazy jumble of me trying to convince him that feminist art involving body parts and pies was an amazing idea. He told me he didn’t understand, but he could tell I needed to do it and he would support me in whatever “it” ended up being. I am very thankful that was his reaction.
The idea was so scary because I had been avoiding the controversial art of my college days since becoming a public school art teacher. I had put all of my nudes, aggression, and controversy in a neat little flat file and pretended that it didn’t exist.
Even when I stopped teaching for a while, I began learning to bake from scratch and opened a home bakery. I threw myself into becoming the quintessential homemaker, not a vulva pie in sight. (Looking back, I think the bakery was me trying to express myself creatively while stifling myself to create acceptably.)
While we were all home for our long “stay home” hibernation, like many others, I turned to creativity to get me through. I sketched, I baked, I allowed myself to doodle and create without pressure. I knew dessert was an artistic medium to me now, like paint or clay, but I wasn’t using it to make anything I would consider “real art.”
Then, it all came together! I knew better than to push it away because I had been waiting so long to feel inspired to create. The film that had gathered over my creativity lens was more like a cataract, and suddenly I could see.
So, I answered the call and here I am, making vulva pies to celebrate vulva diversity, removing shame and stigma from our bodies and feeling like all is right with the world.