deconstructing girlishness with artist aimee leigh
We catch up with the artist to talk vintage porn, sexual desires, and what it feels like to be a girl.
What's soft and pink, super girly? Any number of works produced by Australian artist Aimee Leigh. Reworking vintage pornography through the digitalized filter of modern pop culture, or overlaying Renaissance portraits with intimate webcam selfies taken in her bedroom, Aimee's hyper-sexual aesthetic deconstructs what it feels like to be a girl. Voyeuristic and ultra feminine in her approach, she critiques everything from the sexualization of young celebrities to the objectification and fetishization of girlhood. As she prepares for her second Melbourne exhibition, we chat to the artist about smutty sex, pink vaginas, and 70s erotica.
Tell me a bit about yourself and where you grew up?
I grew up in a small suburban area outside of Melbourne, and then later moved to live near the beach when I started high school. I have always wanted to be a princess. I'm in love with McDonalds' french fries, nuggets, Coca-Cola and sweet-and-sour sauce, and anything to do with the smutty 70s.
When did you first become interested in art?
I had always been interested in some form of self-expression, whether it was performance, written work, photography or any other kind of exploration. I discovered the internet before I started high school, and loved it, but my mum always hated me being on it too much, which was a good thing I guess. I pursued my interest further when I got my own computer, when I was about thirteen or fourteen. It changed a lot for me. It still does.
What inspires you?
Oh, god. Everything. Girls. Girls with curves. Girls lathered in coconut oil with their tits exposed, a shitty suntan and squinting eyes. Girls' assess. My own ass. Playboy magazines from the 70s and 80s. The entire notion, both aesthetically and philosophically, of pornography. Consumerism. Sticky, fatty junk-food. McDonalds. McDonalds propaganda. Coca-Cola propaganda. The American Dream. PhotoBooth. Ugly armchairs from the 70s. Female characters in films like Goodfellas and Casino. Instagram. Hot weather and green grass. But dry grass and hayfields too. Conformity. Controversy. Terrible grain on old video cameras, and shaky hand-held recording. My boyfriend. Barbie and My Little Pony and Bratz and Disney princesses. Films like Lovelace, Lolita, On The Road, A Dangerous Method and Adventureland.
What is it you're trying to do with your work?
Ultimately, I am really just trying to express myself. I am trying to express my love for sex, for sexuality, for girlhood and for being a girl, and I like to play around with the explorations and exploitations of all of the above.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Soft, fluffy and erotic.
A lot of work centers around the theme of girlhood, where did this interest come from?
I was always very girly. I wore tiaras and tutus and painted my nails pink and as I got older and as this wave of contemporary feminism slowly evolved, the notion of girlishness and of being a young woman - and their comparisons and immediate contrasts - became really interesting to me. I also grew up really quickly. I became really emotionally distressed at a tender age, and I kind of missed out on appreciating a lot of the icky and gross but really cute things that happened during that time. And honestly, I am just super fascinated by the power we as women have over men in the world, and I love to relish in it like a little brat.
Does your art exist outside of the internet?
I like to think it does.
A lot of your images depict vagina-like shapes - why allude to it metaphorically as opposed to literally?
I often do both. I like deliberate allusions and unapologetic behavior, and I like to linger in odd places that have tendencies to make people think.
Most representations of female sexuality are male-define. How can we change this?
By owning our own immediate sexuality. By exploring our erotic desires and our erotic identities as women, with or without men.
I find your work that juxtaposes classical paintings with cam girl images really interesting, could you explain a bit about these?
That picture actually evolved from a website and project by Vanessa Omoregie, called camgirlsproject. She was calling girls of the internet to submit appropriated works of a simple overlay technique, in which one posed on PhotoBooth to depict a contemporary form of their chosen artwork from a certain period and/or era.The color palette of both my self-portrait and the actual initial artwork itself worked so nicely together, and I felt like not a lot else had to be said. Female subjects of artworks during famous artistic movements were very often shown nude, and I wanted to bring this to light as, at the time, I was posting lots of semi-naked self-portraits online and felt it was relevant. And it still is.
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm slowly building a body of work created from vintage pornography, as well as my own photography, in which I zoom and screen-shot pixelated pieces of seemingly abstract sex scenes. It's all very fleshy and grainy and there's lots of pink and I want to put it all towards a second exhibition in Melbourne.