Conducted by Lucia Akard, Poetry Reader and Social Media Assistant
1. A lot of your art is focused on the female body, and representing it in ways that seem contradictory to the type of feminine beauty that we normally see in the media. How does something like BAD GIRLS, your photo zine, work to empower women?
My work is a celebration of self ownership. I believe that in a society where female sexuality and identity is misrepresented and distorted in so many ways, there is power and beauty in women rejecting the expectations placed upon them. My work is about putting women in control of how they’re represented and celebrating who they chose to be. Starting at such a young age, girls are raised in a world that tries to define to them what it means to be a “woman” in a society full of contradictory standards of being that tells them their skirts can’t be too short, and to “be sexy,” but “not too sexy,” and “not too slutty,” and “thin,” but not “too thin,” and hairless, pure, and desirable- and I want my work to destroy all of that. I am interested in the influence of the female gaze and the unbelievable potential that comes from women fully embracing and loving themselves. Like- it’s okay if you chose to hang your boobs and beer gut out and have period blood dripping down your hairy leg-you’re beautiful and you’re in control!
2. Tell us a bit about your experience photographing the women’s march on January 1st.
Being in Washington, D.C. on January 1st was life changing. I had the privilege of meeting and photographing so many incredible, like-minded individuals, and I am grateful that photography is a medium which allows me to engage with a multitude of people on such an intimate level. Hundreds of thousands of people were feeding off of the same fervent feeling of solidarity and empowerment and I found that it made people opened, proud, and willing to be photographed.
3. What role do you think art and creativity has to play in feminism and activism in the current political climate?
Art and feminism is what gives us power in a time filled with such political hate and bigotry. It is so easy to feel helpless and dispirited by our current political climate, but making art and remaining active, vibrant and inspired is what helps us mobilize and is essential is combating misogyny, racism, and hate. Making art is what motivates me to reach people and what makes me feel equipped to dismantle the patriarchy.
4. When I look at your art, a lot of it seems to be telling me that ugly is okay. That “ugly” is actually very beautiful. Even the name of your shop, “Crust and Magic” seems to convey this. Is this something intentional, and can you expand on some of the meaning behind your artwork and creative vision?
I want to normalize what we are trained to see as “ugly,” and also encourage a discussion about why we find certain imagery offensive or distasteful. I find it inconceivable that we are so numb to seeing bloodshed from violence and killing but are socially conditioned to consider menstruation revolting. I often use image pairing as an approach to this issue as well. The first spread in BAD GIRLS is a photo of a young woman applying lip gloss layered on top of a photo of vomit on a street corner. We only want to see women when they are polished and shiny- we don’t want to associate them with what we see as gross, ugly and vile. But, what actually is “ugly” in a world where standards of beauty are so grotesque and absurd? I find approaching the absurdity of these issues regarding feminism and beauty in a humorous, tongue-in-cheek way most effective in my work.
5. How have your relationships with your female friends, who seem to be the focus of much of your work, influenced your art?
I am unbelievably lucky to be surrounded, loved and supported by the most amazing women. My female relationships are my universe and such a significant source of inspiration. So much of what I envision and want to create couldn’t be done without them (literally, they are the subjects in the majority of my work), and they are extraordinarily supportive and involved in my creative process. They embody what it means to be “bad girls,” and navigate through this (often sick, twisted, misogynistic) world fearless and empowered. It is amazing to have such beautiful, phenomenal individuals with the same set of values to motivate and inspire me, and I truly believe that there is nothing more magical than the power of female friendship.
Alexa Floresta is a painter and photographer living and working in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her work is a celebration of self ownership and the female spirit. She is inspired by bad girls and all things crusty and beautiful. You can find her at ALEXAFLORESTA.COM and CRUSTANDMAGIC.STORENVY.COM.