Artist Estee Fox is in search of a pretty vagina

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Talk about art on the cutting-edge! On Friday, February 1, the show Estee Fox: fox tales ft. 7 and marbles -- an eclectic mix of videos, paintings and live music -- will open at Edge Gallery, complete with a screening and discussion of Fox's performance piece "How to: A Pretty Vagina." As the artist explains: "For my performance, I cut off a piece of my vagina. This is not about being sick, but of being well in the world. While I was candidly citing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the global sense, I am more specifically drawing attention to the aesthetic genital mutilation in the U.S. This procedure is more commonly know as labia-plasty. It arose with the invention of the designer vagina." See also: - Circumcision: Colorado to stop Medicaid coverage of snipping newborn boys' foreskins - Residue Denver: Artists act out at Edge Gallery - Susanne Mitchell documents African culture at Edge The daughter of a plastic surgeon, Fox remembers "looking in the mirror at age five and planning my first facial procedure. I wanted to make myself 'pretty.' I can summarize this phenomenon as the sacrifice of one's own identity and physical pleasure for the aesthetic, visual pleasure of another party that is separate from the self. This is where I began to explore the concept of a pretty vagina. I have been conscious of the aesthetics of mine throughout my life from media and the patriarchal-dominated pornographic images. Through this, I developed the impression my vagina was ugly, as it did not match the waxed, bleached and tailored vaginas being projected to me."

And from there, she got the idea to snip off a piece of her labia. "In regards to the vagina, the genitals are the center of safety and security," she continues. "I want to make the point that when I use the subject of a vagina in my art, it is not in relation to being a woman, but being a human. In other words, it is in relation to the genitals, whatever their current state. Male, female and everything in between."

But not everyone has appreciated her message. Last spring, when she displayed a piece titled "Garbage Vagina" in a student show on the Auraria campus, someone stabbed a "manifesto" into her piece. That only encouraged her to continue to discuss body taboos, and in June she performed (and filmed) "How to: A Pretty Vagina." And at August's First Friday, she acted as a drunk or drugged girl, and videoed people's reactions.

She wants to make them react -- and then educate them. "I believe we must change some fundamentals in our education systems," Fox says. "This is a topic that must be discussed in schools. When middle-school children have sex-education class, they should also have a body-esteem class that discusses topics such as the changes one's labia has. If women can stand in their own power and say that they are perfect and there is nothing to be modified, things will change."

In advance of the Edge opening, you can learn more about her work at www.esteefox.com.

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