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January, The Feminist Calendar 2016. All images courtesy to Andrea Mary Marshall
The Pirelli Calendar is a hallmark for Western beauty ideals. Ever since its first edition in 1964, the calender produced by the Italian tire company Pirelli has been full of pictures by famous photographers, including the most famous models like Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss.
What started as a scabrous piece of paper for dirty-minded car dealers has become an international icon. Everyone in the world —especially men— look forward to its newest edition. At the end of November, Pirelli will launch it’s 2016 calendar edition. According to some fashion bloggers it could be there best yet. Influential women like Serena Williams and Yoko Ono flaunt their wares, while renown photographer Annie Leibovitz captures their beauty. This year’s calendar will break its tradition of focusing on young, skinny, and explicitly nude models.
However, not everyone is happy with the calendar and Andrea Mary Marshall is one of its critisisers. The American artist is of the opinion that the women featured in the calendar, and the media in general, are always depicted either sexy and horny, or smart and asexual. According to Marshall, the two extremes don’t necessarily have to contradict each other. To illustrate this she made her own version of the Pirelli Calendar, named Feminist Calendar 2016, and it’s currently being diplayed at the Garis & Hahn Gallery in New York City.
The calendar isn’t what you’d expect. It’s full of her own explicit nudes and pin-up-like experiments. Only this time these sexy pictures are accompanied by different, more contrasting images: we see the same woman, but with her clothes on and without make-up. A neutral somewhat cold expression on her face. It’s confronting to say the least.
I called Marshall, to find out more about her idea and how she wants to use it to create a buzz about current beauty conventions, gender equality, and objectification. It turned out to be a painfully confronting conversation in which I was harshly reminded of my own biased, patriarchical view on the matter.
The Creators Project: Some say the upcoming Pirelli Calendar could be the most woman-friendly yet. Isn’t that a good thing?
Andrea Mary Marshall: I can sympathise with Pirelli. And I’m sure they have good intentions, but the funny thing is that in this new edition, the influential women will have their clothes on. It seems that for Pirelli, it’s one or the other. Woman are either considered sexy, which gives them a hall pass to take off their clothes off or they’re seen as intelligent, meaning they’d be better off covering themselves. That doesn’t make any sense, at all. Why can’t women be sexy and intelligent at the same time?
Was it difficult to show these two sides of yourself?
To be honest, the photos on the right — especially the framing —were hardest to take. I usually take self-portraits where I strike a pose, like the nudes on the left. But this time the photo’s succes relied on my pose alone. It’s very difficult to portray yourself in a neutral, reserved way without all the physical attributes that usually attract the viewer’s attention. All that was left in the photo was me, just me.
I think it’s safe to say you are an attractive woman yourself. Doesn’t this project partly rely on the fact you fit within the current beauty ideal?
I think that’s a very unfair question, and also very objectifying. It misses my point entirely. Women can do whatever they want. I’m not just making a statement about beautiful women here. Every woman is beautiful and every women has multiple unique traits. Anyone could have made this calendar.
What do you hope to achieve with this calendar?
I’m not trying to tell anyone what they could do, I don’t think that’s my responsibility as an artist. But I would like to start a conversation about female sexuality, objectification, and gender-equality. In this calendar, both sides are equally important, and equally ‘mine’. I feel very comfortably about my sexuality, but sometimes I just don’t feel like wearing makeup and feel more like wearing a plain black t-shirt. And I dare say all women have that need occassionally. Feminism isn’t ‘dead’. There’s still inequality, and it’s necessary for women to decide themselves how to arrange their lives.
The Feminist Calendar 2016 is on display at the Garis & Hahn Gallery in New York until November 14th. You can buy a limited and signed paper edition here. The official Pirelli Calendar 2016 will be released November 30th at the Roundhouse in London.