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My project, “Underneath,” is an exploration of female identity and sexuality conveyed through literature and illustration on underwear. The medium and process include embroidery, illustration/handwritten text with fabric ink, cut fabric, and additional materials. Each pair can stand alone as a single object, or make a more powerful statement as an art piece as a complete set. The concepts meant to be interpreted from this work include women’s sexual oppression, undervalued sexual identities, and self-expression.
The phrases on the patches are quotes that I find particularly impactful and relevant to gender/sexuality. Feminist authors, philosophers, and activists like Anne Koedt, Luce Irigaray, and Gayle Rubin are a few of the women whose words influenced me to create this body of work. Koedt’s "Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm" is a compelling essay that provides an argument as to why society downplays the importance of clitoral stimulation and encourages vaginal pleasure. Freud’s sexist theories along with his brutal, burdensome claims of female sexuality were also strong motivators for this work. I included his notions of penis envy and male sexual dominance to critique this perspective and contrast it with more liberating ideals. Though critiques of his assumptions are thoroughly included within Kate Millet’s Sexual Politics, Simone de Beauvoir’s The Feminine Mystique, as well as many other feminist works, I found it important to include a bit of Freud’s implications to educate and inform, as well as for creating clear direction and purpose for the work by opposing his claims.
The most important things I hope people can take from “Underneath” is a better understanding of how a male-dominated society can and does directly influence female sexuality. The goal is liberation from sexual oppression, freedom of expression, equally obtainable gratification, and standards.
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