Vanessa Baird often uses her own life and experiences to create her works, where women’s lives and the female body are recurring themes. Baird problematizes the many arenas and functions of women, related to motherhood, sexuality, and the tyranny of beauty. She depicts human qualities and actions that are often associated with shame, pain, and immorality.
Viewers are often provoked by unflattering and revealing depictions of the female body. Is it the millennia-old tradition of idealized portrayals of women, made for the amusement and pleasure of a (male) viewer, that makes a less attractive and more realistic depiction so alien?
I Prefer Not is part of a series of delicate watercolour drawings where Baird’s exquisite craft shines through. The drawings are akin to the naïvely idyllic watercolours found in children’s books. Form and function are at odds with eachother, and the jarring incongruence forces us to think.
The picture consists of several small narratives that show a bizarre reality where animals have human qualities, and vice versa. There is a recurring female figure whose facial traits recall those of the artist herself. This somewhat indistinct and shapeless woman is a sort of signature figure in Baird’s watercolours.The figure seems weak-willed and sluggish in her movements, as though she is entirely unable to resist the temptations, desires, and cravings of life.
The cute bunny rabbit that we seem to recall from childhood fairytales has become a sexualized male character. He is also one of the recurring figures in Baird’s visual universe.
Text: Line Engen
From "Highlights. Art from 1945 to the Present", Nasjonalmuseet 2016, ISBN 978-82-8154-116-0