Artist Samantha Lyn Aasen on Vajazzling, the Absurd Expectations of Womanhood (NSFW)

Samantha Lyn Aasen wearing her princess crown in her Phoenix studio
Samantha Lyn Aasen wearing her princess crown in her Phoenix studio
Mikey Estes

What happens in the studio shouldn't always stay in the studio. Studio Visit is a weekly series that profiles artists in their studios. We ask them questions, they provide answers, and then we have a nice discussion about their work. This week: Samantha Lyn Aasen, current MFA candidate in the Intermedia program at ASU.

The studio of Samantha Lyn Aasen may resemble the messy room of an adolescent girl, but rest assured there's more going on here than just that. Aasen is about to wrap up her studies at ASU with "Sparkle Baby," her MFA thesis show at Step Gallery in April. The photographs that she is currently producing use cheap craft and beauty supplies along with her own body in order to examine girlhood and womanhood. We sat own with Aasen in her studio and chatted about girlhood and womanhood, the cultural phenomenon known as vajazzling, and aspiration resulting in failure.

Editor's note: Images that follow are NSFW.

See also: Phoenix Artist Erika Lynne Hanson on Loving Failure, Obstruction, and Richard T. Walker

Photographs and found objects on display in Aasen's studio at Grant Street Studios.
Photographs and found objects on display in Aasen's studio at Grant Street Studios.
Courtesy of the artist

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"I loved watching this," says Aasen. "I always wanted to be this ultra femme child."

Aasen, like most children, aspired to be cool and in with the popular crowd. However, she never participated because she felt that she wasn't femme enough -- it wasn't really her thing. Now, with her work, Aasen is reliving this princess culture and applying it to being a woman. The critique of how women are portrayed in the media has precedent, and Aasen is expanding on that critique by emphasizing how absurd these expectations are.

The phrase "sparkle baby" comes from Toddlers and Tiaras, a well-known and highly problematic reality show that profiles young girls who participate in beauty pageants. Though Aasen's work is inspired by this ridiculously pink and glittery culture, the use of her adult, female body highlights how unattainable being the "ideal" woman is. One photograph shows her size-8 feet being shoved into plastic pink high-heels and a photograph of her butt in a thong emphasizes an infected mosquito bite coupled with a rash. These and other works look like they could be posters or magazine clippings, but the failure to live up to the "ideal" is brazenly evident. Aasen is putting what may be perceived as her shortcomings on display in a humorous way. It's work that you can laugh at and have a serious conversation about immediately after.

A wall in Aasen's studio that features her vajazzling series.
A wall in Aasen's studio that features her vajazzling series.
Mikey Estes

Aasen is also working on a series of photographs that focus on vajazzling. Popularized by Jennifer Love Hewitt in 2010, vajazzling involves adorning the genital area with rhinestones. It surfaced in Aasen's work because she learned about it on the Internet and eventually began questioning it. Her investigation into vajazzling led her to produce a series of photographs that almost treat her vagina like a scrapbook page. "I love craft stores [and] spending money," Aasen says. She spends her weekends at stores like Michaels and JoAnn's, collecting everything from fake moss to wiggly eyes. This series of photographs subvert consumer culture and charge it with the female form. Aasen is adorning herself with these decorations that define what being an adult woman could be.

Womanhood and girlhood are at odds in Aasen's work. Expectations that had always been a part of Aasen's life growing up became trivial when she became an adult. She realized that being a woman is not about being impeccably pretty and that tirelessly trying to maintain these various things, primarily for men, is absurd. Even though she is using her own sexually-charged body, this work is about Aasen being honest about her womanhood. Because when Kim Kardashian broke the Internet she very well could've had an ass rash, too.

 

Vajazzle-brand products that provide inspiration for Aasen.
Vajazzle-brand products that provide inspiration for Aasen.
Mikey Estes

Tell us about your work in haiku format. Perfect Pink Princess wears a sexy vajazzle failing expectations

What artist(s) are you really into right now? Shana Moulton, Marilyn Minter, Miley Cyrus

What are you reading? Geographies of Girlhood: Identities In-between edited by Pamela J. Bettis and Natalie G. Adams

Works that will be featured in "Sparkle Baby" at Step Gallery.
Works that will be featured in "Sparkle Baby" at Step Gallery.
Mikey Estes

What's the last TV show, film, or video you watched? Dance Moms on Netflix

If you could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be and why? Carolee Schneemann

What was the last exhibition you saw and what did you think of it? I saw Colleen Donohoe's "A Place of My Own." I loved it. It was this take on "home," of being not settled.

Jeff Koons or Marina Abramović and why? Marina Abramović. Duh.

Found object that Aasen has been using for inspiration.
Found object that Aasen has been using for inspiration.
Mikey Estes

What's the best advice you've ever received? "Never apologize for your art" from my friend Craig Tribble

What are you currently working on? Finalizing my thesis show April 3.

What's your most valued tool as an artist? The Internet or glitter

See also: Angela Ellsworth on Her Ongoing Plural Wife Project, New Work, and the Museum of Walking

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Use Current Location

Related Locations

miles
Grant Street Studios

605 E. Grant St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

art.asu.edu

miles
Step Gallery

605 E. Grant St
Phoenix, AZ 85004

art.asu.edu/gallery/step


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