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This Valentine’s, You Don’t Need No Man
These artworks will make the idea of needing a man ridiculously unnecessary.
Art Girls Jungle 12 Feb 2019

February 14 caught you mournfully contemplating re-downloading Tinder as you peruse the aisles of your local grocery store for brownie mix and a nice under-$15 bottle of wine? Have you had to physically restrain yourself from gouging out the eyeballs of one or more happy couple in the last 48 hours? If so, this article is for you. By the time you get through these 8 artworks, the idea of even possibly, remotely, maybe, in some far-off corner of this universe, needing a man on Valentine’s Day will make you laugh so hard you fall over and spill your latte on your new Emma Kohlmann t-shirt. But maybe I’m just speaking for myself here.
In any case, strap on your seat belt and let’s kick off our independent lady V-Day art history tour extravaganza!

The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa, Bernini (1647-1652)

st theresa
I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: you don’t need a (mortal) man to experience transcendent orgasm! This just in from Cosmo: prayer is the new vibrator, guaranteed to give you the hottest, longest, most intense O of your life. And if you’re not Catholic, don’t worry; we have just the thing for you. Check out tantra, the secular, ancient Eastern path to enlightenment through radical acceptance of the entire human experience—including, crucially, the body. Why am I telling you this? Mainly because tantra wants you to have the most (literally) mind-shattering orgasm of your life. Which is more than most of the men in my life have attempted, cough cough.

Yogini, India, Kanchipuram or Kaveripakkam, Tamil Nadu state (c. 900-975)

yogini
Want to know what your inner sexy guru looks like? Here she is. In the Hindu tradition, a “yogini” is the female version of a “yogi,” or someone that practices yoga. Of course, we’re not talking about hitting a weekly flow class at your local studio—yoginis were the real deal, people who devoted their whole lives to the study and practice of yoga philosophy.
Unlike many Western religions, which were sanitized pretty early on of all things feminine, related to sex or even to the body, many Eastern traditions hold onto depictions of female sexuality as a divine and powerful gateway to the Absolute. So if you’re feeling a bit depressed to be alone on Valentine’s, it might help to remember that you have the seeds of a tantric goddess trapped inside your tired gallerina body, just waiting to be watered with self-care and set free. I mean, look at this girl—have you ever seen anyone so clearly lovin’ herself?
You can find this work at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

Ascetics before the shrine of the goddess, page from a manuscript of the Kedara Kalpa, India, Himachal Pradesh state, former kingdom of Kangra (c. 1815)

goddess worship
As further proof that you’re automatically incredible just by virtue of being a woman, look at this painting of ascetics on a pilgrimage worshipping at the shrine of a Hindu goddess. Clearly, they knew to #bowdown before they heard it from Beyoncé. If only the other men in our lives could catch up to these ascetics, am I right, ladies?
But you don’t have to sit around waiting for men to get the memo. Just carry yourself with the knowledge of your endless inner dignity and strength, and I guarantee that people around you will take notice. And you know what’s sweeter than a box of chocolates on Valentine’s? Respect.
You can find this work at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

The Sleepers (Le Sommeil), Gustave Courbet (1866)

the-sleepers.jpg!Large
Despite its innocent-sounding title, this Courbet painting has a super scandalous history. Originally commissioned for a Turkish diplomat, it wasn’t allowed to be shown publically until more than a century later, in 1988. 1988! Fifteen years after Robert Mapplethorpe invited New Yorkers to his first gallery show with a Polaroid of his penis. You’d think that any capacity the art world had for shock had died right then and there, but no.
But back to The Sleepers, or Two Friends, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Well, I don’t think I need to spell out for you why this painting shows that you don’t need a man on Valentine’s. I’m not saying we should all be lesbians—or that sexual preference is a choice, although political lesbianism was a big debate back in the 60s—but if you’ve always been a little curious, here’s your green light. After it was finally shown publically, The Sleepers inspired many contemporary artists to start depicting lesbian couples, normalizing lesbian sexuality in the same way Mapplethorpe did for homosexuality. As much as a whip up the butt can be normalized, that is.
You can see The Sleepers at the Petit Palais in Paris.

Glory, Talecia Tucker (2018)

talecia tucker
You should befriend Talecia Tucker ASAP, because this girl is about to blow up. She’s one of those slashy Millennials who’s doing ten different things at once and kicking ass at all of them. You have to wonder when this girl sleeps—I’d love it if The Cut could do a “How I Get It Done” piece on her. In addition to running her non-binary clothing company, Pretty Major, Tucker became a fine art photographer because she “grew tired of waiting for photographers to send images of [her] clothes.” Can you say baller?
Inspirational (read: envy-inducing) career aside, Tucker’s photography will remind that love isn’t all about making out in the back of the movie theater. This picture, Glory, casts the spotlight on platonic female relationships that rarely get highlighted in art, or in visual culture at all, for that matter. The photo is a tribute to her late grandmother, who used to tell Tucker that her hair was her “crowning glory.” It honors memories of her female clan—mom, cousins, aunts, sisters—gathering in her grandmother’s house to do each other’s hair, a tender gesture of care and bonding. Take this as a reminder to call up all the wonderful women in your life, friends and family, on Valentine’s Day—that’s where the real love is.
Shop Pretty Major online (including the two-volume zine, Love Love, Fuck Love, an exploration of the current love zeitgeist), and follow Tucker on IG to see more of her work.

Memory (The Heart), Frida Kahlo (1937)

memory-the-heart
Whoever said it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all has definitely never seen this painting—or had her husband sleep with her sister. Two years after Diego Riviera, cheated on her with her sister Cristina, Frida Kahlo painted this visceral representation of her grief. Kahlo’s face is blank and expressionless while tears flow down her cheeks, and there is an empty hole pierced by a monstrous wooden arrow where her heart, now a sad lump on the ground, used to be. The message is clear, ladies: choose your men wisely. Better lead a single life focused on friendships, career, hobbies, and feel a little awkward asking for a table for one from time to time than end up with your heart in a bloody mess on the floor, no?
Memory (The Heart) also suggests that Riviera didn’t just tear out Frida’s heart, but he also took her past identities away from her. For starters, when she found out, Kahlo off chopped all her hair, a telltale symptom of a major breakdown (we’ve all been there). After the affair, Kahlo also traded her signature traditional Mestiza garb for European-style clothes. On either side of her, her old uniforms hang—her schoolgirl outfit and her Mexican skirt and vest. They reach their arms out towards Frida, maybe trying to comfort her, but she has no arms and cannot hold onto them. Maybe the heartbreak was so powerful that Kahlo came out of the wringer and entirely new person, no longer able to don the trappings of her past selves. If paintings could talk, this one would probably tell you to listen when the man you’re about to marry tells you flat-out that he’s incapable of being faithful.
This work is currently in the Michel Petitjean collection in Paris.

Leonor Fini, Les Baigneuses (The bathers) (1972)

baigneuses
A self-taught surrealist who painted powerful women and even inspired Madonna? Tell me more. Leonor Fini never studied art formally but was influenced by Italian Renaissance and Mannerist styles, as well as contemporaries she spent her time with in Paris, like Max Ernst, Picasso, Georges Bataille, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Salvador Dalí. In Les Baigneuses, Fini has conjured up three women floating through a clear, flower-filled body of water—and through time, through space, through all 26 dimensions of bosonic string theory (look it up).
Although they appear more tranquil than ferocious, as Fini’s women often do, one thing is clear: these ladies are way too busy luxuriating in the water, soaking in the sunshine and contemplating life’s limitless possibilities to give a shit if some guy on Tinder has seen their message and not replied. This Valentine’s, your cues from them, run yourself a rose petal bath and bliss out, regardless of your relationship status.
This work is currently at Weinstein Gallery in San Francisco.

Dancing on amavasi night, A Ramachandran (2011)

a ramachandran
For more pointers on how to spend more time frolicking with your gal pals and less time listening to some loser vent about how the art establishment doesn’t “get” his work over cheap beer, look no further than Dancing on amavasi night. “Amavasi” loosely translates from most Indian languages derived from Sanskrit as the new moon. But before you jump up and tell me that the moon is going to be waxing in the second quarter on February 14, don’t worry; you can get your moon dance on at any point in the month. Just queue up a Spotify playlist of your witchiest beats, dim the lights, light some candles and some incense, put on something flowy and let your body do the rest. Instant V-Day bliss.
This work is currently at Vadehra Art Gallery in New Delhi.

Mr. Monday at the Love Ranch, 1992, Mark Wigwan (2019)

mark wigwan
And when you’ve practiced enough in your living room and want to bust out the moves for an audience, Mark Wigwan has just the thing for you. Wigwan, a mural artist (Andy Warhol called his mural at London’s Limelight Cub “HOT!”), regular contributor to i-D in the 80s and 90s, nightclub founder and producer, and now artist/illustrator, is here to tell you that come Friday night, you don’t need love. All you need is a good beat.
The Clubland Chronicles, Wigwan’s solo exhibit, will be showing at 5th Base Gallery in London April 4-7, and you can check out Wigwan’s work and buy prints on his website and his IG.

Text by Katya Lopatko
Images via WikiArt, Artsy, @stolengfsclub, Frida Kahlo, Mark Wigwan

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