Head cocked back, shock of lustrous red lipstick aglow, a young woman stares coolly down the barrel of the camera. Her lips ever so slightly parted, her blunt-cut fringe ever so slightly ruffled, her left hand spread as if in pleasure; it is an overtly sexual image. But study some of the other props, gaze about the crumbling backyard setting and the visage of the lusty female protagonist – bedecked in little else but an animal-print one-piece – begins to complicate somewhat.
That it is a vacuum hose that hangs languidly from her shoulders and the family kelpie-cross that heels faithfully by her side – that we can spy pruned rose bushes and a scattering of garden gnomes – are telltale cues. The woman represented in the photograph is a domestic goddess, but not the archetypal woman of yesteryear. She is wanton, highly sexual and completely in control. The fact that Domestic Python is a self-portrait – like the five other works that make up Linsey Gosper’s new exhibition at Stills Gallery, Object Love – and that you can clearly spy her shutter release cable in the bottom of the frame, only drives home the point.
“Control is an aspect that is really important to these images,” says Gosper. “I’m interested in the idea of controlled objectification – the idea that, yes, I may be objectifying myself, but it’s very clear that I’m the one controlling it.
“As far as feminism goes, women should be able to do whatever they want with their body. This is part of that idea.”
There is the moment of reverie whilst gripping the cobweb brush; the sexy Mary Magdalene in leopard-print; the nude wearing a gorilla mask and skull covering her crotch (a reference to a Guerrilla Girls remake of a fame Ingres nude). Suffice to say, the Object Love self-portraits do tread something of a sexual-political tightrope. Gosper, however, sees the works as fitting within the discourse of feminism.
“I definitely see them as being feminist, but I’ve been criticised before for standing on that fine line between perpetuating stereotypes or subverting stereotypes,” says the 33-year-old of the series, which she originally shot as part of her Masters at Melbourne’s VCA in 2008. “A lot of the showing off of the body – while some might frame it as exploiting myself – comes from the idea that some women may actually enjoy being looked at and may enjoy being extroverts and that’s part of the idea as well.”
Much of Gosper’s work has investigated notions surrounding gender and sexuality. Her 2011 show, Alone in My Room, at Melbourne’s Colour Factory merged faceless female nudes and scantly dressed sensuousness with nondescript suburban settings and arcane landscape scenes in a kind of lateral study of female sexual ambience.
But there’s more to Gosper’s photographic practice than gender exploration and symbology. Her work also exhibits a penchant for subtle trash aesthetics and a kinship for those on the other side of art’s class divide. In one image to grace Object Love, she dresses as the classic Mexican luchador wrestler, replete with emblazoned mask. While it could be read as in terms of the slipperiness of gender, it’s also an ode to the underdog.
“The luchador is the classic anti-hero, from the wrong side of the tracks, who uses the mask as a form of empowerment,” she says.
And this goes for much of her work. “I really like celebrating lower socio-economic aesthetics,” she says. “I love placing the supposedly ugly or the confronting alongside something that is more sexual.” A pause, a chuckle. “Like, you might have your tits out, but you’ve got a gorilla mask on.”
Linsey Gosper’s Object Love opens tonight at Stills Gallery and runs alongside Glenn Sloggett’s A White Trash (Lost) Love Story until February 25.