Ripe for the Picking
Laura Windvogel, detail of Logically these things never make sense. Theoretically I’m chilled, practically …not so much, 2015. Watercolour and crayon on Fabriano, 113 x 81cm. All images courtesy of the artist.
I visit Lady $kollie at her kitchen table studio. She makes me a cup of tea, has a smoke and we chat pleasantries for a bit. When she talks about her work she lives up to the contradictions of her pseudonym, shifting between shy and gregarious, sometimes unsure and sometimes startlingly direct. She tells serious stories about her mother and her childhood, but is equally comfortable talking about cocks and pussies.
Lady $kollie, or if you prefer her real name Laura Windvogel, is obsessed with sex, relationships, penises, papayas, bananas and vaginas. She also has a talent for long-winded but humorous titles. Working predominantly in large watercolours on paper, her work has a distinctive style; raw colours, fat lines and scribbly crayon. For a young artist without gallery representation, she has a remarkable presence, in part because of her instantly recognisable style and themes. She is also incredibly Internet savvy, promoting her work through social media. She jokes about this constant online sharing and quotes Kanye West, “Me found bravery in my bravado.”
Laura Windvogel, detail of Enamoured with the fertility God, then told to GO FUCK YOURSELF by the fertility God, 2015. Watercolour and crayon on Fabriano, 65 x 76cm.
Lady $kollie trained at Michaelis School of Fine Art (in Cape Town), but found her voice outside of the institution. She started producing revelatory ‘zines, most notably Kaapstad Kinsey, using a series of prying questions as source material for an illustrated exploration of people’s first sexual experiences. She paired these ‘zines with evocatively themed launch parties and also partnered with HIV testing clinics, giving out free tickets to people who tested beforehand. These smart but meaningful tactics seem to define Lady $kollie’s practice. She isn’t afraid of thinking about the business of being an artist either. She is unrepresented and doing it for herself and she suggests there is a sense of freedom to it – working without the expectations of a gallerist’s idea of the market. It’s a type of entrepreneurship that relies on the Internet for marketing, a strong brand and lots of guts – all of which she seems to posses. “Art is retail,” she laughs, talking about building relationships with clients and learning how to hustle.
Her paintings have a mock-naive handling which, in one of her startlingly direct moments, she admits is her defense mechanism from criticism. But it also evokes a sort of untutored, childlike rawness reminiscent of the immediacy of childhood and the awkwardness of adolescent sexuality. Her work treads the line between a knowing irony and a gushing sincerity. Similarly, while her images contain plenty of genitals, genital analogues and sexual scenes, they don’t feel radically erotic. Rather, they stand revealed. The sexual content vacillates between a childlike glee in sexual content – in showing the forbidden – and anxiety. Her paintings often feature exaggerated or disembodied eyes, at once portraying a joy in looking and a fear of being seen. There are also plenty of detached penises and floating vaginas, incorporeal and outside the body. They act as a revelation and exploration of both herself and sexuality in a broader sense. A mural she produced for Stevenson this year was titled The only reason I predominantly paint papayas and bananas is to highlight the fear I have inside relating to my unrealistic expectations of sexual and romantic relations between men and women. She emphasises that her work is about perceived societal sexual roles and her own personal history.
Laura Windvogel, detail of ‘He was like THIS big’ Girls talking smack around the pool, 2015. Watercolour and crayon on Fabriano.
Lady $kollie works predominantly in watercolour. She tells the story of her mother dragging her to watercolour classes, where they’d spend the afternoon painting gentle Victorian-style landscapes. Ironically, it was in these inoffensive lessons that she found a passion. Her watercolours, though, are a far cry from any gentle sensibility. “I am definitely doing it wrong,” she says. However, the medium lends an immediacy to her paintings, a fluidity and quickness that complement the naive style. At the same time, watercolours add an element of Sunday-painter old lady-ness, in humorous and stark contrast to images of bananas transmuting into dicks. She often embellishes her paintings with crayon, the medium’s obvious connotations giving the scribbly feel of something doodling out of one’s subconscious.
Ultimately, her moniker Lady $kollie is an apt description of her approach. Full of jarring contrasts, naughtiness and sweetness, roughness and revelation – rich grounds for art making, and she isn’t done mining this seam. Lady $kollie heads to Joburg later this year for an artist residency, so keep an eye out for some new video works and plenty more revealing sexuality. Meanwhile, follow her on Twitter and take a look at her Tumblr, where you can see her work in the wild.
Laura Windvogel, detail of Modern day Ophelia but with calming pills, pain pills and get over your fucking self pills, 2015. Watercolour and crayon on Fabriano
Chad Rossouw is an artist, lecturer and the editor of ArtThrob.co.za.