Every Friday, BULLETT’s introducing our favorite Instagram profiles and getting to know the people behind the posts.
Sarah Attard makes sexual art that isn’t meant to turn you on. Instead, it’ll make you see the complications of navigating sexuality as a female in a world that relentlessly objectifies women. Through simple black and white illustrations, the 25-year-old hijacks the male gaze to rewrite the way we view women––not as objects of desire, but as complex people who are just as sad and confused as everyone else is.
While many of Attard’s works examine our fetishized perception of the female body––see: her Magritte-inspired “This is not a nipple.” drawing––some are more surface illustrations of its beauty, and that’s all part of her own journey to understand desire. “Sometimes, I’ll draw something just because I think, That’s a great ass, or That’s some great lingerie,” says the Toronto-based artist. But she didn’t arrive at that mindset easily. Fearing she’d contribute to the constant subjugation of women, Attard initially shied away from illustrating nudity. After studying printmaking and spending her time in art school experimenting with traditional tattoo art and disembodied hands, she realized that the female body gave way to the most honest representation of her own experiences.
With darkly comedic undertones, Attard introduces a deeper dimension to the way we are taught to view women, but her work doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s what we love about it. Her frank approach to depicting sexuality, fused with her disinterest in making conventionally palatable erotica, is what sets her drawings apart from the thousands of other linework artists on Instagram. And though all of her work explores the female body, Attard isn’t committing to saying only one thing––she’s just expressing the contradiction and chaos of her own existence.
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How would you describe your work?
I’m trying to show how diverse women can be as people, as opposed to them just being one-dimensional. I think a lot about the way women move through the world, and how different our experiences are from those of men. A lot of my art is sparked by me trying to figure that out, and express different ways people view women, so that anybody can look at it and understand what we go through––it’s a means of connecting.
Why do you gravitate towards nudity?
Sexuality is a huge part of everyone’s existence, but with women, it’s the only focus a lot of the time. People try to commission me for really erotic art, but I don’t think of my work as erotic––it’s just part of who people are. I’m more interested in the ideas behind sex than turning people on through my art.
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Does that present challenges?
I used to fear the idea of furthering objectification in my art because as a girl, my whole life I’ve been objectified––I face it every day. To hinge my art on that kind of felt like something I shouldn’t do. But then I was like, ‘Fuck it.’ I don’t care if people think a certain thing about my sex life, or me as a person. For me, it’s been about finding that balance of properly expressing what I’m trying to say without being hyper-sexual.
Is that why you often draw disembodied torsos or headless female bodies?
It’s a super fine line, and for me it’s taken a lot of acceptance. The girls I draw without faces or heads––it’s like taking away their personality, or not seeing them as an individual. You just see the body, or the ass, and for a lot of people, that’s all that matters. So I’m trying to work through that. Sometimes, you look at a woman and all you see is her ass even though the rest of her is right in front of you. You just have to ask a person a question to see more than their body. I’m making a commentary more than anything, to look beyond the superficial.
Why are your subjects usually alone?
For me, figuring out a lot of my own sexuality, I’ve realized that the pivotal things are something you learn by yourself––and I don’t mean masturbation. I mean, reflecting on everything separate from your partner. No matter how many people you date, you’re always going to be there––it’s a journey people take on their own.
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Are your one-line Instagram captions important for telling the story of the drawings?
A lot of times, I’ll have those phrases stuck in my head. Other times, I’ll have a more visual idea. The captions I use are little insights––‘Do no harm take no shit’ is one of my favorites. As a girl, your default setting is to be polite but it’s really not warranted. I like the balance of sticking up for yourself without being cruel. I also like the one I did recently of a girl lying down with a cut and it says ‘Cursed since Birth.’ It makes me angry that you’re born a woman, so you have to take everything that comes with that––even the precariousness of our reproductive rights is forced on us, and we have to deal with it.
What problems do you face as a woman in the art industry?
I just started doing Twitch to show people my process when I’m drawing, and I had a man in my life tell me, ‘Make sure you show your face in it, and wear a low-cut shirt.’ You’d never say that to a guy––‘You’re hot, so just coast on that.’ You have something everyone wants to see, which is your boobs, so make sure they’re on display so that people will actually pay attention to what you’re doing.’ We all fucking work hard––we work twice as hard as most guys to get where we’re trying to go, and then we still get comments like that. It’s really hurtful. No matter what we’re doing, it’s overlooked because of our looks.
What do you want people to take away from your work?
I hope people start seeing women just as people. I know that’s a big goal, but I hope that people who look at my page see there’s so much more going on behind what a woman thinks and does, than their own preconceived notions.