|Nava Atlas, Sluts and Studs, 2008, Clothbound flag book|
with pigmented inkjet pages, Edition of five, 14" x 32" (open)
It seems that the subversive spirit of the book mushrooms has taken root here at Artistic Novelty. Or, at the very least, it has spread to other books in The Book: A Contemporary View. In contrast to the broad spectrum of subversion to which the book mushrooms are relevant, however, Nava Atlas's flag book Sluts and Studs specifically confronts its readers with the markedly different words and dialogues that have come to define men's sexuality and women's sexuality in western culture. This confrontation causes us to question the validity of each group of terms and the extent to which they are a balanced representation of sex among the sexes. It becomes clear, and rather quickly, that said discourses aren't very balanced or fair at all. While this point will not be new to anyone who has ever been a part of any social scene, Atlas's presentation of the subject gives her viewers the opportunity to examine just how much--or how little--progress has been made in closing the ideological gap between discussions about male and female sexuality since it first appeared.
The book unfolds to reveal a pop-up grid of words in blue, words in hot pink, pictures in hot pink, and pictures in blue. Give yourself ten points if you can guess which color goes with the men and which color goes with the women. The pictures themselves are from the early-to-middle twentieth century, the times of screen idols and planes decorated with pin-up girls. While it isn't clear where the pictures of the men originally appeared, it's a fair bet that the women's pictures were originally used as pin-ups. On the inside of the front and back covers the words on the grid, still in their representative colors, are accompanied by their dictionary definitions. Words relating to women alternate with words relating to men. Troublingly, words with negative connotations alternate with words with positive connotations. Can you guess which words are positive and which are negative? I thought so. Give yourself ten more points.
The pictures, after you've read the words and definitions, are troubling. Each of the men is shown from somewhere in the vicinity of the collar bone and up. There isn't anything particularly sexual about these depictions unless one counts a glint in an eye here and there. If anything, the expression of these mens' faces is self-assured and confident. Despite the lack of sexuality in the pictures, they are paired with words that identify them as sexual beings. The women, in contrast, are shown from the waist or the breasts up, sport elaborate coiffures that are in just enough disarray, and wear, well, very little. These images are meant to be alluring and, though the women in them are often confident and self-assured, their confidence isn't really the point of these pictures.