Pop-up art exhibit ‘This Is Our Pussy’ is fun, unique celebration of women’s bodies

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Christina Clugston/Courtesy

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Lit up by vibrant pink lights, the small rectangular room of the Good Mother Gallery in Oakland was packed last Saturday evening for the opening reception of the Pussy Party Collective’s two-day pop-up art exhibit, “This Is Our Pussy.”

With all proceeds from the event going to Planned Parenthood including from sales of art prints as well as zines made by the collective co-curators of the exhibit Christina Clugston and Robin Bruns Worona described the event as a fun celebration of women and feminism. The gallery featured a wide variety of bright blue and pink graphic designs, ranging from typographic art to whimsical comic-book-like illustrations.  

The art exhibited for “This Is Our Pussy” was so diverse, yet unified in style and color using risograph printing, which limits the number of colors used and how they’re able to be mixed. Through the use of blue and pink — the traditionally “masculine” and “feminine” colors — the artwork both confronted and subverted traditional notions of gender roles, as well as ideas of decency and beauty for women. But Clugston also emphasized that it didn’t necessarily need to take on such a serious interpretation, saying, “I also just like these colors. It felt right.”

Clugston and Worona began the Pussy Party Collective as a response to the Access Hollywood tape in which President Donald Trump proclaims, “Grab them by the pussy.” Clugston described how she “just wanted to do something about it” and turn something that had been so negative into a positive movement — “not necessarily (to) reclaim the word,” but just to celebrate women and women’s bodies.  

The co-curators began the project after hearing a Dan Savage podcast in which he listed a multitude of synonyms for “vagina,” which ended up being a theme of sorts for the artwork, with many artists choosing some of these terms and representing them pictorially.

For her piece “Ladies Garden,” Alexandra Bowman took the slang “lady garden” and transformed it into a striking piece featuring multiple nude women around a river, with one woman having a literal garden of dense vegetation around the pubic area. Bowman discussed wanting to represent and celebrate women using this metaphor of growth, and especially with the bright red river running through the center of the image representing the idea of origin as well.

Another artist, Leah Hefner, described learning the Sanskrit word for vagina, “yoni,” and realizing that it doubled with the meaning of “origin.” This inspired her piece “YONI,” which featured the title word spelled out with letters that turn into a large spiral, conveying the double meaning of the word itself, while highlighting the contrast with our societal stigma around the words “pussy” and “vagina.”

Many artists took different approaches in the size and composition of their pieces as well, with Tanny Chang’s “Fiddle Cove” stretching almost the length of an entire wall. “Fiddle Cove,” another slang term for “vagina,” featured a repeating pattern of women sitting and standing in midair as well as swimming and dipping into vagina-shaped pools. Chang explained the piece as a depiction of women supporting each other and a portrayal of a sort of solidarity through feminism, where we recognize “pussy” as something great and shouldn’t have the negative connotation it’s usually associated with.

Throughout the night, there was a general atmosphere of community — a community of artists who had worked for a cause in response to something serious and concerning but who were also having fun with the work they were doing. Both the artists and curators emphasized that the event was primarily something positive for everyone involved, which, judging by the energy of the room, was certainly true to the atmosphere of “This Is Our Pussy.”

Contact Lynn Zhou at [email protected].

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