Although Kiki de Montparnasse boasts beautiful lingerie and handsome sex toys at every turn, none of these items were more valuable than the artwork displayed on the second floor. So many of Betty's best friends and admirers attended her party to celebrate her artwork and the release of her new e-book. She had truly seemed so fulfilled, at least this is what I hope for her.
I had seen Betty's pieces on her website and photos of them in books, but never had I seen them in the flesh. One-by-one, I stopped and fell into the picture she created on the white page, a big breathing muscle made out of two curvaceous and sinewy bodies that had contorted and twisted into one another, their embrace in constant movement. If I stared long enough, I thought one of the copulating pairs would squirm seductively toward me.
One drawing in particular had caught my attention, a slender woman with smoothly drawn muscles and expressive strength in her arms and her stomach and all the rest of her body. She was positioned like the Virtruvian Man (as Betty would later confirm for me was the inspiration for this piece) on top of a sign that announced a sexuality conference organized by NOW. This detailed flyer described an epic weekend of sexual exploration, and had a nearly endless list of activities that I could only WISH existed now. That said, I'm sure there are organizations who currently provide a weekend's worth of similar learning; however to have gone to that particular event at that particular time (1970s) would have been, well, I would imagine the energy was very different.
Anyway, a photographer approached me, a female photographer at that! Her name was Donna. Together we talked about Betty's picture. I noted the smooth pussy lips of Betty's Virtruvian woman, and wondered if that had been a controversial image back in the day. I imagined some might find it offensive because it was pornographic or provoked thoughts of child pornography . Pubic hair, at least in my mind, was a sign of maturity. But, Donna told me that the lack of pubic hair would have definitely been an issue at that time for another reason. Instead, it would look too masculine because it would have been perceived as male genitalia.
I couldn't really understand it, except to imagine a Ken Doll's smooth sexless manhood. Was this still considered obscene for the feminists of decades passed? It's funny to think so, considering that even this representation of masculinity lacks genuine male qualities. If anything, Ken's crotch looked like a nipple-less boob.
Betty's Virtruvian woman had a real vagina, with a deliciously dark crevice that defined the slenderly plump form of the lips. Mind you, it wasn't drawn in a pornographic way. Instead it was a frank declaration of a strong woman in her most strongest glory: Nude.
During dinner, I found out from Betty that after she had put so much time and effort into creating these fliers, NOW had decided not to use them. And Donna was right (if I remember correctly); the image of a hairless vagina did invoke masculine images. I suppose it didn't help that Betty's woman did look very strong, with her hair slicked back and her body lean and mean.
It amazed me to think that this didn't get the full exposure it deserved. Her Virtruvian woman might have been iconic! Sometime before, when I had first gazed upon the poster with Donna, I thought it would have been impossible to show this image now and have it mean what it meant back then. Even if we were to try and reproduce Betty's Virtruvian woman, she would have to possess some timeless quality to her, one that can relate to generations, rather than define just a single moment in time, she represents a beam of light.
Donna asked if I would like to reproduce something like this, to which I immediately said yes. Personally, it would have been an act of love for Betty to replicate her work, especially through the medium of photography versus drawing. But, it also sounded almost like a challenge, to see if the Virtruvian woman can really exist off of the paper.
We shall see...