April 1, 2014  |  MoMA Teen Takeover
MoMA Teens Take Over Inside/Out: Petra Collins—Text + Messages
Photo of Petra Collins artwork by Aureole Ribes

Installation view of Petra Collins: Discharge, Capricious 88, 28 February 28–April 27, 2014. Photo by Auréole Ribes

Your alarm doesn’t wake you up on time and you have to find the perfect outfit that no one will judge. Your winged eyeliner has to be symmetrical. You see a girl’s profile, where someone is anonymously calling her a slut because there’s a photo online of her making out with someone. Then you check your Facebook to see if you got any more likes on your profile picture. Did you remember to shave your armpits? S**t, I need to wear a sweater over this. You get to class and your teacher asks a question, and you raise your hand and share your idea, your doubt showing through the way you talk, as you quickly regret answering at all. F**k, did I just get my period? You don’t want anyone to hear you opening your pad in the bathroom. Instructions from the tampon box tell you to dispose of it all “discretely.”

As a teenage girl, there are so many things that consume my thoughts every moment of every day. I remember health class in middle school, when they separated the girls and the boys to talk about sex. I remember sitting in class in seventh grade and hearing a boy talking about how his health teacher said that it was completely natural for boys to masturbate, though I never heard any such thing like that in my section for the girls. At 13, my best friend was sent to the principal’s office for wearing a low top, which engraved an idea in her head that it that was her fault that boys in her class paid more attention to her than to the teacher. From a young age, girls are restricted and censored to certain types of relationships and certain ways of dressing and acting.

I have always had issues with my body and my sexuality, and when I first learned about an artist named Petra Collins, I was so inspired. My friend and I immediately went and bought her t-shirt, which depicts a bloody and hairy vagina. Her work made my friends and I feel more powerful and free to not care what others thought. The first time we wore the shirt, people in our high school looked at the shirt in disgust and it became quite funny when we saw their reactions to the t-shirt.

Photo of Petra Collins' artwork by Aureole Ribes

Installation view of Petra Collins: Discharge, Capricious 88, 28 February 28–April 27, 2014. Photo by Auréole Ribes

Petra started photography at the age of 15, and her artwork has only grown since. She explores what it really feels like to be a teenage girl in the 21st century—the period blood that so many people pretend they don’t have and the pubic hair that is never seen on beaches. Petra points out through her work that in this modern age of technology, there are still old misogynist ideas sewn into society.

Installation view of Petra Collins: Discharge

Installation view of Petra Collins: Discharge, Capricious 88, 28 February 28–April 27, 2014. Photo by Auréole Ribes

At Petra’s first solo show at Capricious 88, there were neon signs of text messages that a lot of teens surprisingly send each other. One of her neon signs says, “just really depressed rn.” This is such a serious statement, but because it is said in such a seemingly nonchalant way it isn’t taken seriously or the person who says it is called an “attention whore.” Petra points out that many teens do feel this way and it is never noticed or it is seen as a way to attract attention.

In her exhibition, there were photos of girls putting on makeup, taking selfies, looking in the mirror, staring out of the car, grinding on a guy while someone takes a photo, and many other relatable things. Then there was a photo, bigger than the others, of Petra masturbating. This is something overlooked in society; people see hair, period blood, and the pleasure of women as these repugnant and mythical things. Petra depicts the suppression of feelings that are healthy and the suppression of individuality because of this messed-up image of how a girl should act. She defies the image of how she should act and teaches girls to love themselves, no matter what society tells them.

You wake up in the morning, put your vagina t-shirt on, and head out the door.

The author, Auréole Ribes

The author, Auréole Ribes

This week, every post on Inside/Out is created by participants in the MoMA + MoMA PS1 Cross-Museum Collective, a behind-the-scenes program for teenage alumni of our In the Making studio-art classes. Over the course of the 16-week project, the participating teens work with educators, curators, security staff, conservators, and other Museum staff to gain hands-on experience across a number of fields. In addition, they create collaborative artwork with a range of contemporary artists. More info can be found HERE and HERE. Info on our 2014 free summer art courses for teens is available now.


I love this post so much.

Truth is Beauty!
I’m a 65 year old woman and I too … love this post …

are you the girl of jean claude ribes de sacoué in France ?

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