Pussy Playtime: This is How My Body Performs

You read the title of this post and you realize there’s at least 2 types of people in the world: those that thought ‘vagina’… and those that actually pictured the sweet, innocent image of their cat playing with a ball of yarn. Today, I play around with the double meaning of the word ‘pussy’. You see a cat. I talk about vaginas. I believe this is called a compromise.

BUT! on a serious note: I really want to explore the way we represent the female body through aesthetic metaphors such as the domesticated house cat. Pussy becomes a euphemism for vagina. (Funny how pussy seems like a harsher word with that hard ‘p’, but people are more comfortable saying pussy than vagina. Vagina!) These are subjects that I consider in my work; it becomes a reflection of myself. How is it that my body performs this narrative? What role does my pussy play in this day of age? How does it play in time? This is my pussy playtime:


Hickerson, My Body Performs/Pussy Playtime (left panel diptych), 2019, photography


Hickerson, My Body Performs/Pussy Playtime (right panel diptych), 2019, photography

I want to explore how I have been trained to appease the male gaze, involuntarily, through constant surveillance, performance and embodiment. I feel that because I am a woman, I am expected to conform to gender roles that characterize women as sexual beings created to tend to their man.

And so I decided to play around with a camera.

Although I consider myself a fiber artist and painter, I enjoy delving into other mediums including new media. I decided to explore symbolic references and manipulation of cloth through photography to capture a realistic reflection of my narrative. In my work entitled, My Body Performs/Pussy Playtime (diptych) (2019), I carefully select my clothing to best accentuate my body, while keeping it covered. Although I am not nude, I want the viewer to view my form and infer a sense of nudity, or rather a sense of vulnerability. I aim to create an intimate setting wherein I stand, blurred in the background, but my presence is understood.

The viewer sees my nude-toned bodysuit and assumes my torso is uncovered. Then, the mustard pants are worn because of the flimsy material. The pants hang loose on my thighs, causing the material to curve with my curves, imitating the shape of my vulva. I hold a sweater in my right hand; the material imitates hair, and I place it over my thigh, near my vulva.

Then! Vivianne, my past roommate’s therapy cat, is placed in the foreground. In the left diptych (viewer’s left), Vivianne is viewed from her profile. She stares forward, fierce and calm. Her gaze looks forward which creates a directional movement towards my pelvic area. The image is split in half; Vivianne fills one half of the photo while my body resides in the other. The overall composition is balanced.

Similarly, the right photograph of the diptych depicts a near, duplicated image. There is a notable difference in Vivanne’s position. In the second diptych, she fills a little less than half the composition, and her head is placed at a ¾ profile where her gaze meets the viewer. She demands to meet the gaze of the viewer. As my body performs a feminine oversexualization geared to appease to the male gaze, Vivianne reflects the double meaning in the term ‘pussy’. She embodies the feminine, and symbolizes the manipulation of sex appeal to grasp the gaze of the male viewer.

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