My artistic practice is in response to issues of performative gender such as the beauty burden, politeness conditioning, emotional labor, and gender based sexual violence. Within these themes, I investigate the push-and-pull between desire and disgust, and my own feelings of being unsafe in my body, in both public and private spaces. I exploit the juxtaposition of oral and vaginal labia to ask questions of myself and my audience in relation to cultural paradigms of shame. In my S L I T series, I ask: Why are you unbothered by the public S L I T on my face, but shame me for the private S L I T between my legs? S L I T uses illusion and the unexpected to subvert clichés through a critical examination of the daily performances of gender in which we all participate.
The butterfly has been used as a symbol of the feminine for centuries, given its resemblance to the shape of the vulva, its beauty, and its apparent vulnerability, all deeply entrenched clichés of the female identity. In my recent work, I examine ways to subvert these predictable associations with the feminine, and genitalia assigned female at birth. The human project of beauty is a burden that falls disproportionately on people socialized to be women and girls. (La)bi[a]diversity exposes the necessity to perform beauty as a survival tactic and its intimate ties to gender-based sexual violence. I transgress cultural paradigms of body shame to create imagery proving, based on my research, that there is no such thing as a “normal” labial structure. My paintings and drawings create radical visibility in my quest to de-stigmatize labial anatomical variations. Culturally, we can only benefit from making visible the revolutionary biodiversity of bodies.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Jessica DuPreez was born in Summit, New Jersey in 1991, and raised in Orlando, Florida from the age of 7. She received her BFA in 2013 with dual degrees in Fine Art and Art History from Florida Southern College and her MFA in Painting and Drawing in 2021 from School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her practice explores themes such as healing from body shame, performing beauty as a survival mechanism, and gender based sexual violence in both the public and private spheres. In her most recent work, DuPreez is investigating the semiotics of lips and butterflies as a way to subvert gendered clichés and critically examine performative gender. DuPreez lives and works in Chicago, IL. She has exhibited at various institutional, private, public, and underground venues, including the Melvin Art Gallery in Lakeland, FL; the Elmhurst Art Museum in Elmhurst, IL; SNEHTA in Athens, Greece; and has shown in Chicago, IL with: Terrain Exhibitions, Kasia Kay Art Projects, the Research House for Asian Art, the MacLean Center, the Hairpin Arts Center, and Patient Info.
© Jessica DuPreez