Stephanie Sarley comes from a family of artists. Her father was a storyboard artist for movies such as Wayne’s World and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. However, this Oakland-based visionary specializes in a different story. Stephanie tackles a subject matter that traditionally makes men squirm. Her Instagram videos have been activating discussion all across the web about confronting a very important topic that has been in the art world for centuries: the female body—specifically, vaginas. We talked to Stephanie about her work.
GIRLS ARE AWESOME: Hey, Stephanie. Which CD did you listen to as a kid that you were ashamed about at a certain age, but now secretly love?
Stephanie Sarley: Oh, definitely the Spice Girls. I was obsessed from 3rd to 5th grade with posters, every CD, lollipops. I was creepy about it. I still have this really embarrassing photo of me in front of my shrine. I was always Sporty Spice with my friend groups which pissed me off, but I was a brunette tomboy kid so I had to accept it. I even went to see them at the Shoreline Theatre on their US tour without Ginger Spice right before they broke up. The Spice Girls were important role models for me growing up with the phrase “girl power”.
Who was the first female visual artist that you started to really get into?
I first recall being super intrigued with Frida Kahlo as a preteen and young practicing artist. I went to go see a major show of her work at San Francisco’s MOMA and I was blown away. Afterwards, I got a book on her work in the gift shop and it became my favourite art book for a while. I remember being so entranced with her ability to channel her pain into something surreal and meaningful and that always stuck with me.
Self Portrait-Nectar of the Beast
Do you think that it is harder to be a sexually suggestive artist in the prude US of A?
I can’t say for sure because I’ve only ever lived here, but my work aims to challenge censorship of women’s bodies in art and the misogyny that opposes progress in the United States and around the world.
You started as a very physical artist with sculpture and printmaking. Do you think Instagram acts like a new medium and should be considered an art form itself?
Speaking of censorship, most censorship I’ve experienced has been on Instagram. Instagram is not my new medium: it’s just a platform for me to connect with people in the art world, showcase new works, promote new press and publications. The timeline is more that I got into digital painting on a Cintiq monitor in Photoshop in 2013 before I started Instagram. Since then, I’ve also developed animation skills and love making GIFs, even dabbling in 3D rendering. So the digital medium is what got me on the Internet and from there, Instagram.