The streets of London’s Soho have a particular vibe: The cramped alleys have long been associated with grit and grime, the musk of sex hangs between adult shops and neon signs reading “GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS.” It is this atmosphere which inspired Romily Alice to create a series of nude, neon portraits which attempt to reclaim the pin-up image for a female gaze.
Alice’s Neon Portraits, which number 9 in total, take a nude female form and present it without sexualization. Body parts are uneven, shapes are not proportional, and there are no hands on hips or turns at certain angles. The portraits are female bodies as they are—rather as they're being sold. Alice creates the templates for each piece using nude selfies submitted via online anonymous form. “It was important for me that the whole thing was consensual,” Alice tells The Creators Project. “I could have gone online and found images from porn, but I didn’t want to do that.”
The submissions are “electively anonymous” but Alice said she was surprised by how many people willingly leave their contact information. The artist and her subject stay in contact throughout the process, and when each piece is done, she sends them a photo of the finished product.
Alice says that many of her subjects are excited about seeing their body recreated in neon and choose to share their “nudes” on social media. “They’ve been able to recontextualize how they see their bodies, which is the best thing to be able to give someone,” Alice shares.
Neon’s overt sexualization—and inherent ties with the sex industry—makes the sterilization of the female form particularly intriguing. Alice says that while creating the work, she thought about how humans can't resist staring at a glowing light source, how "[we] are hardwired to gravitate towards neon.”
The same goes for the female form on a screen—whether that means sending nudes from a phone or watching internet porn. A combination of nudity and light create a siren’s song of sexuality, but it’s a product that often focuses on one type of woman or one type of body.
Alice’s portraits portray a range of body types, something that she says her audience has had a positive reaction to. “It’s a relief to see naked women who look how I look when I look in the mirror," Alice says, "how my friends look when they look in the mirror. It’s liberating.”
To see more from Romily Alice, visit her website, here.