You know those accidental selfies where you think you’re going to look really good, but then you flip back your iPhone and see you only caught a left eye close-up? Well, Sophia Weisstub has turned hers into a Instagram-approved art career. Taking zoomed-in photos of the most average parts of her own body, the Israeli artist explores the subtle and not-so-subtle sexiness of the female form. While some of her transformations are more obvious—the top of her lips into a set of doodled breasts, her tongue into a squiggly labia—others are totally imaginative (and unbelievably spot-on). Aside from learning to explore your own sexuality, after viewing Weisstub’s work, you’ll never be able to look into the mirror again without seeing a vagina.
BULLETT caught up with the artist to talk sex positivity, self-portraiture and speaking your mind. Read our interview with the artist and view an exclusive series, below.
What inspired this series?
For all of my pieces, I just start by looking at my body and finding things that I wouldn’t normally see. Later, I’ll start to think about why I saw that, but in the beginning, it really just starts with examining different parts of myself.
So you’re the person in all your photos. Why do you stick with just self-portraits?
Well, it is the easiest option—I have myself 24/7 and I’m always here. But it also feels more intimate and most authentic or direct, rather than using somebody else. And I think it’s most natural to start with oneself. The work itself is so intimate, but it’s also universal—the photos are so zoomed in, it could be anyone, or it’s an eye, not a person. Maybe people who know me see me in the photos, but people who aren’t close to me can project themselves or someone else they know onto the images.
How’d you get into making this kind of work?
I’ve always done art and when I started this, I never put much thought into it—I just saw the shape of a horse in my eyelashes once. So I just started taking photos with my iPhone and doodle on them—this was like, five years ago. Then an art page published my work and I realized it actually got attention—that people actually liked it. That’s when I started producing them in high quality. But really, I just do whatever comes to me naturally.
So is the work more for yourself, or for others?
Of course I want other people to like it. But honestly, I think most of the stuff we do usually starts from us—I do it because I want to express something, then if it touches someone else, that’s even better. It’s like, if a musician writes a song—they had a breakup and wanted to write about it for themselves, but then someone else out there gets touched by it. As human beings, we all do feel similar things. So if you amuse or touch someone in some way or make them relate to what you do—that’s the greater meaning of it. Though, it’s not like I think about that when I’m doing it. It’s just afterwards, when I hope it’ll translate and communicate with others.
You use a lot of sexual imagery related to the female body. Is that a conscious decision?
Not really. It’s just something that I touch on because I touch whatever is on my mind at the time —it could be death or sex or relationships or family, this is just how I process what’s going on in my head. And obviously, sexuality is a natural part of our lives—it does come to my mind a lot and I do deal with and think about it. So it’s only natural to touch on it, as well, even if people usually avoid it because it makes them uncomfortable. As far as my body goes—everything going on now with sex positivity and this big wave of feminist art—it really allows us to explore ourselves in a way we haven’t to be able to before. So it’s been really great.
How does your art explore that?
It’s about finding stuff that is sexual in our bodies—the shapes and stuff—repeating themselves, or even making you feel aroused by certain non-sexual things because they visually look the same or smell the same as something that is. I know I’m curious about it, and my work is just me trying to figure everything out.
What role does Instagram play in what you do?
It’s interesting because on Instagram there are all the nudity guidelines—so you can’t post nude photos. But what about all the people who are drawings sexual images? Only some of those get banned. And with my work, I try to make it less obvious and more fun because I’m not really showing anything—it’s just your imagination and it shows that these things exist and that it’s okay to feel certain ways.
But do you ever worry you’re getting likes or attention because you’re hinting at female nudity?
It’s hard sometimes, because I feel like there’s a lot of attention on the sexual work that’s very trendy—it’s like popular to draw vaginas and stuff. But it’s also really good because we’ve seen penises forever—it’s time to see vaginas and make them less hidden. And with my work, I want people to just accept the vagina the way we accept seeing someone’s lips. That’s why I do these doodles—it’s intimate, and it’s not so rough and subjective, but it’s still putting it out there.
Why do you think feminist art has become so popular lately?
A few reasons—but definitely social media. And it’s complicated because I think what a lot of these girls are doing—I wouldn’t call it feminist. I want women to feel comfortable showing themselves and their bodies, but it can become problematic because it’s on social media. Then other young girls are doing it without thinking about the feminist perspective, and I just imagine all these guys looking at it. So it’s hard because I like that women are feeling more comfortable with themselves and have a place to share themselves. But it’s also online, and there are guys who are taking advantage of it—taking advantage of girls seeing themselves more sexually. Overall, though, it’s a good thing because it’s putting women out there, it’s putting vaginas out there, it’s giving girls a place to speak their mind.