It’s rather unremarkable for me to begin this feature by claiming that the art world is a world that exists in a universe that’s anything other than considerably exclusionary. I think that, with that sentiment, I’m simply stating the obvious. The world of art, as well as every other cultural crevice of society, lends itself to habitual sexism, racism, classism, etc. You get it. I’m referring to the infinite list of the “isms” with which you’re familiar if you’re reading BUST. Whether you’ve taken an art history course or not, it is no secret that women and their bodies have been used, and dare I say, exploited, as artistic centerpieces for countless centuries. The female-assigned body, specifically in the nude, has been sentenced to interminable scrutiny – our figures, in their most vulnerable state, have been the core subject of art across various mediums and eras. In fact, I don't think there's a single medium that hasn't, at some point, depicted women's bodies through the lens of the male gaze - a lens that is indisputably rife with toxicity, and one which is unfortunately inherent in an overwhelmingly patriarchal, misogynistic culture.
Needless to say, when I come across artwork that bends, or in this case, obliterates these unspoken rules, I’m a captive audience. This, in addition to the use of bright, eye-catching colors, is why I’ve recently become a huge fan of 23-year-old visual artist, Uncle Reezy. Reezy (whose real name is Marisa Kelling), is based in Madison, Wisconsin, and specializes in creating artwork which is as bold visually as it is conceptually. Stylistically inspired by pop art, Reezy utilizes candy-coated palettes and intentionally messy-yet-concise line work to confront onlookers with unabashedly sex-positive imagery that places women in positions of power.
“I love showing women enjoying and embracing their sexuality for themselves, rather than being reduced to something sexy for men’s pleasure. I love showing all different kinds of women, because they’re all beautiful and should never be ashamed to be open about their bodies,” she said.
What’s also remarkable is that Kelling has no formal art education. When I asked her how she became immersed in the art world, she said it’s something she’s always loved to do, and recalled drawing Pokémon for fellow first-graders on the playground and selling them for fifty cents each. Adorable, right? As Kelling grew older, drawings of Pokémon evolved into images of women loving other women, women as dominatrixes, queer orgies, you name it. The inspiration here, she said, was sparked in college, when she was experiencing “sexual stuff” (as she referred to it), and dealing with an abusive relationship. That said, her work is not strictly erotic – it’s deeper than that. What I admire about Reezy is that her art is multi-layered, and can resonate with audiences for various reasons. To me, some of her pieces resemble struggles with mental illness, grappling with self-love, and embracing solitude – but, these same images may mean something vastly different to someone else.
Admittedly, her work may be unsettling, or perhaps even gross, to some. I can’t deny it – the subject matter tends to be graphic, and may not be for the faint of heart. It’s not artwork that one could likely frame in their corporate office cubicle; at least, not if they wish to remain employed. In other words, this art is NSFW. But for wild feminists who enjoy flaunting their agency, it’s totally ideal, and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably add “cover your walls with Reezy’s prints” to your to-do list.
Check out some of her ingeniously shocking and aesthetically-pleasing work below, and be sure to hit up her website.
Images courtesy of Marisa Kelling
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