The light and deep shadows, flesh that almost glows, lush satin and other textiles evoke a Renaissance quality in the images in Jocelyn Woods’ solo exhibition. There is a mystical air to them. A sense of awe pervades.

Woods’ images are sensual and intimate — intensely intimate. After perhaps an initial discomfort at their intimacy, they invite the viewer to appreciate their beauty and also to wonder that her subject has for so long been unrepresented and shamed in art.

Flynndog Gallery in South Burlington presents “Vulva Epiphanies,” a solo exhibition of Woods’ new work. “Vulva Epiphanies” features large-scale fine art vulva photographs and selections from Woods’ “Garden Elixirs” and “Isle of Lesbos” series.

Woods, an actress, fine art model, theater and film director, playwright, concept designer, vocalist and composer, lives in Cambridge. She conceives, meticulously plans, and models in the images, working with photographers including Gordon Fischer of Montreal and Gretchen Heinel of New York.

The exhibition continues to June 14. Flynndog Gallery, a new South Burlington art space, is open by appointment, arrangements made by emailing the managers.

“My impetus is to create art that is both visceral and mystical for the viewer, through theatrical drama and transcendental eroticism,” explained Woods, who has been developing her photography series and theater and cinematic projects since 2012.

Two photography series with selections in Woods’ Flynndog show are heading toward stage and film. “The Garden Elixirs,” which had its first incarnation during Burlington Fringe Festival 2018, is being developed further into a short film. With draping vines, oversized fruit, and a cast including a Puck-like character, “The Garden Elixirs” brings to mind “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights.”

“The Isle of Lesbos” series features LBGTQ models as well as Woods and celebrates gender diversity and sexuality. Inspired by the ancient Greek poetess Sappho and Parisien Rene Vivien, Woods is developing it into a stage play expected to debut in Burlington in September.

“It is my intention to celebrate the beauty of the vulva as a fine art masterpiece,” Woods said about the focus of “Vulva Epiphanies,” and its compelling photographs of external female genitalia.

“In the art worlds until recently, the vulva has been largely and disproportionately under-represented. On the other hand, it is common to see representations of the phallus that are uncensored and very much open and on display in public places, for example Michelangelo’s statue of David or the frequent motif of urinating Cupids as fountains,” Woods explained in a video introduction to the show screened at its opening.

“Historically and in recent patriarchal times, the vulva has been the most shamed body part, hidden and locked away under the skirt,” Woods said, noting that photographs of vulvas are largely relegated to pornography and medical materials.

Woods’ exhibition makes a refreshing departure from this history. Woods is the model in her images, which are unapologetically intimate. They are beautifully composed with creative set design with luxurious fabrics, flowers, some snakes, and her partner, Carlos Imooeen.

“These images of a sovereign, self-sovereign, vulva do not merely confront the male gaze of toxic masculinity, they dismantle and dissolve it by their very presence,” said Woods.

Woods’ process — from conceiving her images through the photography sessions — happens in her home, actually in her bedroom.

“My ideas are borne out of poetry I write. My poetry, plays, visual art, and of course, life experience, are all interwoven. It all combines in visions, lush visions, often as I’m going to sleep,” Woods said.

Woods has had a severe rare neuromuscular disease from birth and is essentially bedridden. Its complications restrict her mobility and physical energy. It also cut short her piano career. Musically, she has turned to her voice as her instrument and continues to compose and record layered vocal compositions. For her photography, stage and film work, she plans her artwork to fine details then finds models and collaborators to stage and perform it.

“It’s a very natural process for me as it’s already alive in my mind,” she said. “It is my fervent wish to utilize my ‘crippled’ body to illustrate and document the naked core of existence.”

(1) comment

Jocelyn Woods

Correction: the email address for FlynnDog is asm.exhibitions@gmail.com

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