GTPulse: Traverse City Artist Promotes Body Positivity and Sexual Health Through Art

Bodies are strange and beautiful things. Every idea we have, goosebump we feel, and breath we exhale is filtered through our bodies. They house all of our hopes, dreams, memories, and wonderings, yet, for as long as time we have let outside ideals shape how we think our bodies should look, and if they’re not the ideal of the moment, we can be prone to feeling like we somehow are lesser or a divergent from what’s loved. That having a different shaped figure somehow makes the work that a physical body does less miraculous. Local artist Periwinkle Seljord calls herself an advocate for the admiration of bodies and she advocates acceptance through a sexual health art show she is working on for her first solo show in January.

When I first wanted to talk to Periwinkle about her art it was for a mural she painted outside of Brew. A long, vertical, ‘Brew’ painting is located behind the cafe and I would see her working on it while I was on midafternoon strolls. As days went by what was once plain text came alive with pops of color, foliage and flowers weaving through the text. When I saw her behind the bar at Brew I knew I wanted to talk to her about her art. Upon getting to know her more, the mural is such a small part of her work.

“The mural is very much my fun work, but it’s not a representation of the majority of what I do,” she said.

Her true artistic passion lies in creating art that speaks to the human condition, and it’s been a long time coming for her most recent project.

“It started around my sophomore year of high school was when I started getting into it and honestly my style came out of laziness for not wanting to draw full bodies so I would make all of these fragmented forms. Everything is hypersexualized, yet no one really talks about sex or sexual health in particular. So I started making more art for the body-positive aspect of it.”

She grew into her art style and became more invested in it as time went on. Not only were her body drawings becoming better, but her understanding of why this artwork was important was becoming more clear.

“In my senior year of high school, I started to think deeply about my own experiences and started doing more research on sexuality and body image and that really pushed my art forward. I was featured at Higher Art for a student show, along with other student artists.”

The show coming out in January will be at Higher Art Gallery as well, but this one will be more interactive. A big part of this show comes from a sexual health survey Periwinkle created that asks people about their different perspectives and experiences on their understanding of their own sexuality, body image, mental health, and the environment that influences those things. The anonymous survey will have people’s answers in a booklet at the show along with Periwinkle’s art.

“So far I have 55 results and it’s really wonderful reading what people write. Some of them are only two words, some people are writing about their entire life’s story. It’s very heartening to read everything and see how much experiences differ. I have answers from people who are 18 to I think 83 years old, and from all different backgrounds. That’s really what the show is about.”

Her art is not for the pearl clutchers of the world. Brightly colored boobs, butts, thighs and other parts are painted next to neon patterns and shapes and I can’t help but wonder if the circles, triangles and squares are meant to juxtaposition that one shape isn’t superior to another. They’re just shapes. Bodies in Periwinkle’s paintings are of all weights and shapes, rolls, and bones. Although many of the depictions are from her own creativity, she sometimes will photograph an art subject to reference for a painting.

“I’ve drawn friends. I’ve posted about looking for anonymous models and people will reach out to me. I really love those moments because when I ask to draw someone I make it very clear that this is about them. I want them to be comfortable and to have fun. It’s apart of that process of embracing our bodies and embracing our sexuality, and it starts with the people I’m painting!”

Keep an eye for Periwinkle’s Higher Art show coming in January, and the next time you catch yourself editing your appearance in the mirror, remember everything your beautiful body is and does.

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Categories: GTPulse