Ruth Hogg

MA Fine Art

SheilaNaGigs are carved stone figures found on the outside of churches and castles throughout Britain and the rest of Europe. They depict naked women displaying and pulling open their vulva. Carved by the Normans, there are multiple theories as to their original meaning but are now seen as a feminist symbol representing body positivity, fertility, sexuality and feminine strength.

In my work I try to readdress the imbalance of power between model and photographer with techniques such as letting the models choose their own poses and including my own reflection in a mirror. This makes it apparent to the viewer that what you are seeing is my “gaze”, and also brings up conversations of the “gendered gaze”. From the concept of the “male gaze”, through the “female gaze” to the “matrixial gaze” of Bracha L. Ettinger, I am trying to present a non-gendered yet intimate gaze.

Projecting the SheilaNaGigs onto the walls of the church references their original context and reminds worshippers of the vital role that women play in creation, through sex, pregnancy and birth. The patriarchal presentation of a male creator God occurring in much of Christianity’s interpretation of the Bible neglects the Goddess aspect of the Divine.