I make it a point to seek out all of the most strange, interesting and delightful things you can find on dear old tumblr. That’s kind of the only reason I have one, which is why I was immediately enthralled when the sculptures of Argentinian artist Camila Valdez popped up on my dashboard. Amidst funky street style photos of “black fashion” and things like this, it was still hard to miss a pair of voluptuous legs popping out from a teacup/a decadent doughnut/a bag of fluffy popcorn.
Valdez is a female visual artist who graduated from the University of Buenos Aires in 2010, and her work is at once playful and provocative. Her sculptures of pastel pastries and treats, things normally associated with innocence, take on a more cutting edge when connected at the thigh to what looks something like a burlesque dancer in her final act. What can be made of this attention-grabbing juxtaposition?
Valdez has actually been likened to the American artist Mel Ramos — most often associated with the pop art movement of the 1960s. More specifically, he is known for paintings of nude women emerging from boxes of McDonald’s fries or strewn across a pack of Lifesavers. Now I can’t really speak to the intentions behind Ramos’ nude paintings, but I can say that the commodification of women’s bodies and sexuality is nothing if not tiresome at this point in history. Pairing the bodies of naked women with commercial products is a telling – but not new – observation of the role women play in society.
Which is why I was so charmed that the person responsible for creating this art is a woman. You see, a man making these kinds of statements and essentially writing the script for female sexuality is kind of old hat at this point. I think the idea of women being literally turned into food or a product to be consumed by anyone who wants her is a typical expression of women’s sexuality that most people don’t give a second glance to today. But for a woman to make this kind of statement, to illuminate so clearly the objectification of women through art, I feel like that is empowering. It may not be entirely new, but it is at least a variation.
For a woman to acknowledge the way women are portrayed molded honed into sexualized beings in such a frank manner is an act of power. One of the most disheartening things that I see even in my daily life is women who have internalized the way of thinking that allows patriarchy to run rampant in this country. They would never in a million years fathom of calling out anyone for instances of sexism or even recognize it as such, which I actually find frightening.
So to see someone like Camila Valdez attack the constant sexual objectification of women that seems to be ingrained in cultures around the world is awe-inspiring. The mere act of confronting it for what it is – for turning an ideological issue into something tangible and visceral and right in front of our eyes – is an act of rebellion.