I did a crazy thing this year. I painted 100 Vulva artworks. Wrapped up in this little thing called the 100-day project, I took a leap into a place that changed my trajectory for 2018.
It started with some traps.
The short story is that I had been seeing some creatives on Instagram murmuring about a mysterious 100-day project. They were brainstorming their projects. As I let my imagination take over and fit me into this project I came up with my own ideas. My gut and brain—in simpatico—jumped to “vaginas, I should make vagina art for 100 days.” Of course, as I tried to weigh my options and brainstorm other ideas, I didn’t feel that spark. So as if it were fate, that’s how this began.
However, it wasn’t fate.
The long story is that about a year before I started this project I was reflecting a lot on sex and how I hadn’t come to experience an orgasm yet. (While an extremely personal detail from my life, it is integral to the story and therefore I must tell it). I had come up with a concept for a book. A collection of letters addressed to my G-spot, as a way to open up to myself. It was an exercise in personal sexual development, but it also sounded funny and quirky, which is truly my style. I had been writing a few of these fun little letters on my phone in the following months. I wasn’t putting lots of time into it though. It sat in stillness, a project I would “get to later.” When spring arrived, I started seeing the 100-day project circulating online. The gut instinct to do vulva art was a clever trap I set for myself to prepare and groom me for an idea I’d come up with long before that. It also turned into a clever trap to expand my knowledge of my own body, and to become even more comfortable in it. I certainly learned a lot about becoming more comfortable with my body during the duration of the project. And yes, I’ve now had an orgasm for those of you skimming for that happy ending. However, those of you wanting to see how this project shaped me and what I learned, here it is:
- Time is precious. Time is limiting.
When you commit yourself to a long-term project, there are risks. When you commit yourself to a daily project, there are risks. The big one is the risk of failure. Whatever you deem to be the failure. When I began this hundred days, I gave myself permissions to quit, to change subjects, to skip a day or fall behind. This helped me. It sounded like romance on day one, but it turned into grace for myself and my life later on. There were days I posted late, or times I had to catch up. There were days that I didn’t have more than 30 minutes to make something, scan it, and post it. Those days were rough. Sometimes I was able to make several pieces in one sitting so that I could prevent any unnecessary stress. Yet lack of time almost always correlated to a less developed piece. I know what pieces are “not my best work”. However, that is a charming part of the challenge. I lament some of the pieces that didn’t get the same time from me or didn’t get a blossoming concept to go with it. I’m still working through that, and even though the project is over, I am still finding ways to interact with, and fall more in love with those pieces that didn’t get that attention from me before.
- The grace and difference between shame, and regret.
Regret. Regret has always been my compass. Not because I have a lot of regrets, but because I try to predict what I might regret. I carefully made relationship, sexual and romantic decisions based on how much I thought I might regret something. No risk of regret? I’m clear for takeoff. Living my life that way worked then. But now if I don’t consider the systemic social shame that goes along with my regret-compass, then I miss out on a big part of the conversation. There’s no turning back now.
Shame. As a young white woman in America, I’ve been conditioned to see and feel a layer of shame surrounding a woman’s sexuality. This isn’t new. My feelings were shaped by my parents’ thoughts and beliefs, then my friends and colleagues, but it took me a long time before I formulated my own thoughts on the matter. The particular shame I speak of is a shame that is a thin veil inherited by all women, not based on action or response. The shame that comes with the package. I reject this kind of shame. I learned and worked through my own feelings on this kind of shame during this hundred-day project. I used my tiny artistic acts of resistance to build confidence outside of that learned shame. One of those secret benefits of busting out of your comfort zone, I suppose.
- This project is bigger than me.
I felt so inspired by others to learn, and share, and grow myself. I wanted to offer a hand to hold while exploring topics that are taboo. My personal experiences only go so far though, and finding ways to open up and expand were difficult some days. I cried while writing a poem because I was so frustrated with how hard it was to communicate the love I was trying to pour out while also having the proper tone to match, find the right words, etc. Being out in the world learning what it is like to be an individual that is true to herself, to be in the world as part of a partnership, to be in the world and part of a community that is growing and changing and being challenged constantly…I’ve been working my way through that list, and I’m part of a community now and there must be a role for me to fill. I may not have found it yet, but I’m certainly going in the right direction. I can feel that.
I’m not here to tell you that you should make a ton of vulva artwork to connect with yourself. That worked for me, yes, but for you—think outside the box. The guidance or help you can give yourself is there if you look for it.
Aurhor: Dani Dodge (of Studio Dodge)
Author Bio: Artist Dani Dodge specializes in watercolor illustration, and comics. Her subjects are primarily women, and style is bright and humorous.
She currently lives and works out of her home studio in West Seattle. Recent projects of hers are the 100Vaginas series, and her family-friendly comic Cactus Cat: Origins.
Link to social media : Instagram @studiododge