These graphic designers are using art to own their sexuality
In a society where women are both shamed for their sexuality and highly objectified, these talented artists help spread the message that we should embrace the skin we’re in and not be forced to cover up our natural beauty.
They are able to convey messages of body positivity and empowerment by depicting the female anatomy in a bold, provocative, and unapologetic light. Not only do these works of art uphold an important message, but they are absolutely stunning to look at!
Claudia Chanhoi puts the forbidden nipple center stage in her art work, blending landscape scenes with images of the female anatomy to show that nature’s beauty is still no match for the beauty of a woman’s body.
“I grew up in a Chinese Catholic family, went to a private Catholic all girls schools, and it would be weird and shameful to talk about sex,” Claudia says. “But women were still used widely as a sex object which made me confused at the time.”
She is passionate about using her art to challenge the daily scrutiny and criticism women face for their lifestyle choices.
“I don’t know why people hate on how women see their bodies, when they should be celebrating their sexuality,” she said.
People who don’t understand the feminist commentary behind her art view it as rooted in perversion or a horny obsession.
“They don’t spend time to study what’s behind it. I use bodies to illustrate the female body as sex objects to mock the cruel objectification of women in a comical light,” Claudia says.
In addition to her drawings of legs as chopsticks and boobs served on platters, she is also creating art to help raise money and awareness for breast cancer charities.
“I collaborated with a Swedish fashion brand to raise awareness for breast cancer,” she said. “I got to design a print illustrating breasts with scars, in different shapes, colors, with nipple piercings, tan lines, and stretch marks.”
Claudia’s female icon: Rihanna
Venus Libido’s artwork expresses the bitterness and rage women feel as a response to rampant misogyny and systemic patriarchy. Whether it involves hairy armpits or putting dicks in a blender, she wants to portray the bold and unapologetic woman.
“All the women I draw are a representation of myself and the things I experience as a woman,” she says. “When I was in university, I was experiencing signs of misogyny and people wouldn’t acknowledge me or my work as a female artist. It just continued as I went into paid work.”
Venus also uses art as a way to break narrow beauty standards by drawing women with body hair and who aren’t a petite size.
“It’s important to draw the way we really look, with stretch marks, wrinkles, and bad hair to teach young girls that they don’t need to look like what they see in the media,” she said.
Among Venus’s long term goals in her artistic career is to continue having her art work in conjunction with charities for women’s equality.
“If there’s other women around the world who aren’t free, then I don’t feel like I’m free,” she says.
Venus also expresses gratitude for the home of supportive women who have accepted her into the art community.
“We have a safe space to talk about women’s issues where we don’t feel threatened.”
Venus’ female icon: Roxane Gay, author of “Bad Feminist”
Kristen Liu is an LA-based artist who draws badass, bombshell female protagonists in high action crime scenes inspired by “a healthy imagination and true crime, action, and suspense movies.” Each piece is enlivened with a complicated narrative and vibrant neon colors.
Although the female subjects in her illustrations are versions of herself and channel the emotions and impulses that she experiences personally, she is able to draw inspiration from the strong women who raised her.
“All the strong women in my life are inspiration for the women I paint,” she says. “I was raised by my single mother and grandma with my older sister, so it was a household of independent women who had to to completely rely on themselves and each other if they wanted to make it. “
She artfully weaves themes of eroticism into her work to counter the idea that women should feel forced to suppress their desire for sex.
“We [women] have to apologize for our sexuality so much in real life,” she says. “The paintings are about me embracing my own sexuality. I don’t think it’s something I, or any woman, should be ashamed of exploring.”
Kristen’s female icon: “Jane Goodall — if all of us strove to understand others better the way she has, the world would suck a lot less.”
Camilla, an artist based in Brooklyn, NY, just recently quit her job as a designer at J. Crew to pursue a career as a freelance artist after growing tired of answering to male bosses.
“Early in the day until late at night, we would receive pressure from bosses,” she said. “Females in the industry want to do good and be perfect, and men would often take advantage of that mindset.”
Since beginning to work for herself and towards her own authentic vision, one of Camilla Engstrom’s signature designs is a pink, plump, genderless figure named Husa who likes to hang around naked. She draws Husa as a way to channel her wacky alter ego and make a statement against the fashion industry’s narrow beauty standards.
“It was all about the perfect, tall, skinny, pale, American white girl,” she said.
When asked what Husa’s most important piece of advice would be to women, Camilla answered “to embrace your weirdness, be confident, and never let anyone tell you what to do, think, or feel.”
Among her many impressive projects is a book of 200 whimsically drawn dicks, a product of insane creative drive and sheer work ethic.
“I was going through a breakup at the time and having a hard time with my feelings,” Camilla said. “Dicks were scary to me, so painting them, not taking them as seriously and being able to laugh at the whole thing was therapeutic for me. I didn’t think I could do it, but I drew 200 dicks in 3 days”.
Camilla’s female icon: Yoyo Cao, designer and entrepreneur