It’s Big. It’s Pink. It’s Genitalia: Art’s Power Amid Inequality

I’ll be honest with you – I did a double take when this artwork first appeared on my art news social media feed. Not only is the sculpture visually dramatic, but it’s not everyday that you see a giant vulva proudly displayed on a Brazilian hillside. Nevertheless, this unusual piece of art certainly piqued my interest.

Source: Facebook, Juliana Notari.

The sculpture, entitled Diva, is by Brazilian artist Juliana Notari who installed the thirty-three metre concrete piece into the serene hillside of Pernambuco. Despite being known for being an artistically and culturally diverse state of Brazil, the sculpture has sparked numerous and often heated debates on the country’s attitudes to gender. President Jair Bolsonaro is known for his censorship of numerous minority groups, including the LGBTQ+ community, as well as an “enemy of the arts”. It is no coincidence that Notari revealed the sculpture just days after Bolsonaro declared abortion would never be approved in Brazil. Diva‘s life force and purpose is to take a stance against such discriminatory policies and gender discrimination. As Notari wrote in a post on Facebook, the sculpture is intended to form a bridge of communication between “increasingly urgent” issues surrounding gender that are rife in a spiralling “unequal and catastrophic society”.

Source: Facebook, Juliana Notari.

Despite Notari’s reasoning behind the sculpture, it has been subject to continuous negativity and Facebook comments declaring the work as “obscene”. Brazilian polemicist and journalist Olavo de Carvalho wrote on Twitter that it should be “dealt with” by a similar sized penis. The aggressive and sexually violent nature of Carvalho’s comment particularly exemplifies the desperate need for more sculptures like Diva to exist as it represents the repression that many individuals face every day.

There is no doubt that Diva is a shocking artwork. But instead of turning away in horror we must ask ourselves why. It’s big. It’s pink. It’s genitalia. Broken down, Diva is a combination of things we all know exist. So why has it shocked so many? Only powerful art has a way of making us uncomfortable. This is because it is art that we would not usually see day to day, making it all the more necessary to expose ourselves to art like this more often. If art never challenges us and only depicts what we already know and are comfortable with we can not hope to experience growth. Diva challenges our cultural and societal norms and takes a large, loud, shockingly-pink stance against political attitudes that mean to prohibit the freedom of women. Diva is beautiful in its power but also its vulnerability. To face those in power who desire to rid others of their freedom is an act of great strength, and great art.

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