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[NSFW] Portraits of Sticky, Sweaty, Smelly, and Erotic Bodies

In 'Grass, Peonie, Bum,' Maisie Cousins celebrates bodies for their repulsiveness and their eroticism.

Francesca Capossela

Lipstick smeared chins, flowers dripping in blood, and glossy nudes appear frequently in Maisie Cousins' photography. Many of the images have a primal side to them, depicting women's bodies alongside nature. A slug sits on a breast, covered in blades of grass. A mouth is coated in tiny flowers. Describing her work as hedonistic and self-satisfying, the London-based artist focuses on femininity, power, nature, and the body. Her first solo show, Grass, Peonie, Bum, opened on May 17th at T J Boluting.

Cousins describes her first solo show as inspiring. "It was good to break from the uniformity of showing things online," She tells Creators. While her pieces are in conversation with a certain Tumblr-based aesthetic, seeing them blown up and offline forced Cousins to think about how viewers should interact with her pieces physically. "I wanted to make it not just visual, but really push a multi-sensory experience," Cousins says, "which is why I have the perfume collaboration with Azzi Glasser and a gold reflective floor in one room." Adding a scent-based aspect to Cousins' work makes the photographs even more visceral, allowing the viewer's unconscious to become engaged with the exhibition.

Nodding to the longstanding tradition of sensual flowers, Maisie Cousins has flower photos in the exhibition named 'bumhole' and 'big dick.' Her depiction of flowers as male as well as female body parts inverts the tradition, and her overtness about her subject matter (what she calls "the subversive edge to their beauty") is fresh. Cousins' whimsical, playful, and sometimes humorous treatment of her subject matter is augmented by her creative juxtapositions and beautiful color schemes.

Cousins' work is full of bodies, but their presence is not dramatic. Instead, the presence of sex, nudity, and the female body, is normalized. Sometimes repulsive, sometimes erotic, and often both at the same time, Cousins' work challenges the unnatural representation of female bodies in mainstream media, and allows sweaty, hairy, blemished bodies to be wonderfully imperfect and fully celebrated.

Grass, Peonie, Bum is open until July 1st. Check out Maisie Cousins' other work here.

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