Get to know the female artists who are working to redefine womanhood through exquisite colors, several techniques, and powerful concepts. In this series, Zaftyg will celebrate their work, highlight their voices, and brush up how supporting women through the arts is the key to encouraging self-confidence, exposure, and creativity. Every week: a new artist.
Valerie Auclair, Montréal (@valerie_auclair)
As long as Valerie can remember, she has always been passionate about art in all its forms. “In 2014, I started my bachelor’s degree in Studio arts at Concordia University in Montreal. It was during my second year of undergraduate studies that my urge to make feminist art emerged. Intuitively, without understanding yet where that impulse was coming from, I made a mould of my vulva and created a mask with it. I wore it as a performance in front of my classmates and I called it Mascavulva.
My goal was to show the vulva under a new light, beautifully and poetically, but with a frontal and assertive approach.
Then, I participated in Concordia’s exchange program and studied abroad at l’École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Nantes Métropole in France in 2016-2017. While studying abroad, I developed new ceramics, woodworking and photography projects which challenged my ideas, and allowed me to find greater depth in my work. My photography project represented a close up of eleven vulvas in chiaroscuro that were displayed on a wall. My goal was to show the vulva under a new light, beautifully and poetically, but with a frontal and assertive approach. After my travels, when I came back to Montreal, I started making collaborative artworks with Gaétan Fontaine. Professional photographer, visual artist, friend and family member, we shared the same ideas about gender roles issues. We decided to create a collaborative art project called Vulvette Underground in 2018. Through street art, photography and social media, we aim to open a discourse about the vulva and its misrepresentation or absence of representation in our society. In my daily life, between tree planting and morel hunting in the wild forests of British Columbia, I try to deepen my connection to both Mother Nature and my feminine nature through yoga and Reiki. Through those paths, I feel more connected to my essence as a woman”, she reveals.
Read on for the full interview.
How does your art relate to women’s empowerment? What message are you trying to deliver?
I have often used images of the vulva in my work to challenge the current views and taboos that our society has surrounding the female sexual organs. I also want to challenge the perception that women have on their vulvas and try to understand how they identify with their sex and sexuality. I am deeply fascinated with the impact of society and media on the female form, and wish to help change and evolve it. I want to continue to deepen my knowledge on these captivating subjects and to find my way to translate these ideas throughout my work.
“I have often used images of the vulva in my work to challenge the current taboos that our society has surrounding the female sexual organs.“
What is your favorite work of art and why?
My favorite work is Mascavulva. It is the seed that brought me to realize that the taboos surrounding the vulva were still anchored in people’s core beliefs, even today. The strength of my classmate’s reactions towards Mascavulva was astonishing to me. Both the positive and negative reactions encouraged me to pursue working on that theme. Then, through my collaboration with Gaétan, the idea of a photoshoot in the streets of Montreal with Mascavulva emerged in our heads. It was the trigger that led us to the creation of Vulvette Underground. We realized that using public spaces was the perfect avenue to get our message through without censorship.
Since then, we have installed hundreds of vulvas of different colors in the streets of Montreal, and document it through our Instagram. What we love even more is when people have the chance to put their hands on one and bring it home with them! It is motivating and inspiring to observe that people are responsive to Vulvette Underground’s message.
Although, our partnership has been criticized before. The fact that our duo is comprised of a woman and a man has seemed to offend people since our subject matter is the vulva. I think that it is time that we overcome this gender segregation in feminism and both women and man must stand up for women. Vulvette Underground strives for acceptance and freedom of representation of the bodies, and that concerns absolutely everyone.
“We have installed hundreds of vulvas of different colors in the streets of Montreal.“
Valerie’s artwork is available for sale through her Instagram pages: @valerie_auclair and @vulvetteunderground.