I recently created a painting series/installation that juxtaposed the products, messages and imagery of both the pad/tampon companies, and the pornography industry in order to make a comment on the ridiculous, misguided, sanitized and patently false ideas that both have marketed to the public in regards to women’s bodies, sexuality and real experiences. Though this is a serious topic, my intention was to use humour to highlight the common absurdity in what these two industries have created. The following is a bit long, but I think the paintings need a bit of explanation in order for you, my dear readers, to see what a good artist I am. No, seriously though, you should read it.
My work consisted of five paintings of pin-up type photographs of women painted onto the colourful, and wonderfully smooth and matte surfaces of menstrual pad wrappers.
This project was inspired by a few, seemingly unrelated things. The paintings were inspired by and created in reference to a deck of nudie cards I had that is from the 80s. The pictures on the deck were laughable, consisting of preposterous scenarios, (like taking a naked sponge bath while sitting bare assed on a bale of hay) and sexual cliches that have little to nothing to do with the true nature of women’s sexuality (laying on the ground in ecstasy while spraying one’s naked body with a hose, standing or sitting around topless squeezing one breast between thumb and fingers, and just awkwardly posing with no bra or panties, but wearing long gloves, pearls and/or brimmed hats.)
Let’s all take a look at what I mean here for a sec. And keep in mind these are here for artistic purposes only, and I will not be posting anymore nudity or pornography. I’ve already attracted some wierdies with that post about pantyhose packages I did a while back that gets multiple views everyday and is always in my Google search terms stats, which show the keywords people have used to get to this blog.
The cards weren’t really sexy, they were more just…confusing than anything. Anyways, I got thinking about how the tampon and pad companies also portray women’s bodies and reproduction and sexuality in a distorted way. I think we’ve all seen the commercials that have women cartwheeling around in white pants, or the ones where the whole message and design of the product is based around concealing one’s use of pads and tampons, and by extension, the occurrence and existence of one’s menstrual cycle.
I decided that the pad wrappers as a canvas would be a good way to bring together the two industries, the tampon/pad companies, and the pornography world. The name of the product says it all, “Sanitary Napkins” , a product that is meant to sanitize, for the wearer, and the public, the realities of female reproduction, an issue that is also “sanitized” in pornography and the like, where birth-control, pregnancy and menstruation are completely out of the picture. I also liked the pad wrappers because the way they open, in three sections, is very much like the centre-folds in adult magazines like Playboy.
So many of the pad and tampon advertisements focus on cleanliness, freshness, like the white bleached cotton of the pads and tampons and the clean looking mystery blue liquid stand-in for blood, two things that don’t exactly match women’s experiences I’ll bet.
Another element that helped gel this whole concept was the following. I laughed out loud when I saw this sticker on a truck stop bathroom tampon machine, which succinctly summed up the gist of the marketing message the companies try to sell women about the freedom and benefits of their products:
Isn’t the sticker relatable ladies? I mean, a new tampon while on pit-stop from a long car ride is about as refreshing as the ocean breeze, no? I presented this sticker along with the series of paintings, to punctuate the disparity between tampon marketing and reality.
And now, finally, here are the paintings, which range in size from 5 to 12 inches:
I thought the card that the painting below was based upon, depicted a very odd pose. I guess it was supposed to be sexy, the woman touching her breast in a come-hither kind of way, but it just looks stupid to me, like she’s squeezing her breast like “honk, honk!”
And this next one, check out the “outfit,” and why is she posing like that? The only time a person might do that pose in their life, is with a bat in one hand while posing in the front row for the baseball team group photo.
And lastly, there’s this one, which I guess is the least absurd conceptually:
I hope you have enjoyed another look at my eclectic art portfolio, and that you are pleased with these paintings and the accompanying sticker. Laughs aside, I think we’ve all learned a lot today about the false images of female sexuality, bodies and reproduction. This is a series that I hope to expand upon with more paintings. The pad wrappers are a wonderful surface to paint on. I love the smooth, velvety texture, and the white tabs at the top are perfect to hang them. Try making some of your own feminist, political art today! I think you’ll find feminism is a popular topic that everyone is always eager to hear more about! Menstruation too.
Tip for budding artists: Take a picture of your work while it is installed in the gallery.
Bonus: Two pictures of public art (ie: vandalism) found in the same public bathroom, weeks apart: