Jacqueline Secor is an up and coming American artist based in Salt Lake City, Utah. After growing up in the Mormon faith, Jacqueline left the church to explore life and take ownership over herself. She has shared her series, "Diversity of Nature", an ongoing series of paintings re-imagining vulvae as aspects of nature we don't often correlate with femininity.
"Female bodies are constantly criticized, critiqued, and commented on, which can result in the most harmful judgement of all: our own. A couple years ago, my once manageable OCD spiraled into an uncontrollable and unexplainable Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). I began to examine my body endlessly, but I could no longer recognize myself. Every inch of my body seemed flawed, deserving of the harsh criticism that I heaped upon myself. The more I hated my body, the more worthless I felt, until I was no longer living my life, but serving a life sentence, imprisoned in my own body. I needed help and found it at a mental health facility. There I met a variety of smart and talented women who helped me escape from the cycle of judgement and hatred and find freedom. This series creates a space free from comparisons, where each body is honored in all of its individuality. Choosing to portray vulvae as parts of nature is not about trying to make them “prettier” but about showing vulvae as they are: integral elements of the natural world we are a part of. The beauty, the strength, the very survival of nature depends on diversity. So too with humans."
I interviewed Jacqueline prior to group shows she is participating in this June, "She Inspires" at Untitled Space and the "Recycle 2017" exhibit at the Brooklyn Waterfronts Artists Coalition. We chatted about how growing up Mormon influenced her art practice and how she strives to grow as an artist every single day.
Sarah Sickles for Pink Things: Tell me about yourself!
Jacqueline Secor: I am a mixed media artist inspired by prehistoric art. I am from Pollock Pines, California, but currently reside in Salt Lake City, Utah after receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Utah Valley University. I love to garden and go on camping trips with my partner and I also raise chickens and angora rabbits that I love playing with.
Pink Things: How did you get into art?
Jacqueline Secor: I studied art in college and have been producing art ever since. I am drawn to the process of creation and fascinated by how self-expressions define uniqueness, yet art unites all living creatures. I’ve always loved how it feels to create something.
Pink Things: Has the Mormon faith influenced you as a person and in your artwork? How?
Jacqueline Secor: I feel that Mormonism’s systematic oppression toward women influenced my art and, in a way, my series is an act of resistance against the judgment and powerlessness I felt as a woman within the church. I want to artistically communicate the need to overcome a history of shame, misogyny and patriarchy through my art.
Pink Things: So tell me about this series. What inspired it? How has it evolved? Why vaginas? Why nature?
Jacqueline Secor: This series focuses on the individuality and elemental power of the body. The decision to paint vulvae began as an entirely personal way to reclaim my power and to cope with some of my own secret insecurities. After sharing a few early paintings with my close friends and family, they responded by sending me photos of their own bodies to re-imagine in my art. Now, people from all around the world – friends, family members, casual acquaintances, and total strangers – have contributed as models for my work.
Pink Things: Can you tell me a little bit about your practice and process? How do you decide on the subject matter and colors, etc?
Jacqueline Secor: I work from photo references sent to me by others. I ask each model beforehand what imagery they would like to see re-imagined in their painting. Most of my work is mixed media – acrylic, watercolor, ink, pastels, and collage. Some of these pieces are sculptural and that’s hard to see in a photograph.
Pink Things: Can you tell me about your relationship with body dysmorphic disorder? How has creating art helped you overcome?
Jacqueline Secor: I started this series after escaping a very unhealthy relationship and environment that caused me to become extremely self-critical. I turned to art as a way to help myself heal from the body dysmorphic disorder that I had developed.
Pink Things: It sounds like women are a huge inspiration in your life. Can you tell me about this? How have the women in your life shaped you?
Jacqueline Secor: Growing up, I was surrounded by powerful women and nature. My dad died when I was eleven, so my mom pretty much raised my brother, three sisters, and me, alone.
Pink Things: Your work is explicitly vulvae. What about those who are trans and non-binary?
Jacqueline Secor: Initially, I never intended to make this project public. I identify as a woman and in the beginning I was my own muse. The vulva is what I had to expand on. I take submissions as they come, and all are welcome to contribute to this series. Mostly women have contributed, but LBGTQIA+ individuals are also represented in this series. The beauty, the strength, the very survival of nature and humans depends on diversity.
Pink Things: Let’s talk about nature and the human body. Can you elaborate on their connection and representation in “Diversity of Nature”?
Jacqueline Secor: I started to paint vulvae because the vulva symbolizes birth. Earth is the ultimate womb. Everything living emerges from the womb. It was instinctive for me to re-imagine vulvae with imagery of land and sea, which are elements of the natural world we are a part of.
Pink Things: Why this title? I ask because Pink Things has been called out for previously showing mostly White vaginas. There doesn’t seem to be much diversity in the skin tone of the work, just in the vulvae shape and nature aspects. Is the series growing to show diversity in more ways than one?
Jacqueline Secor: I see a wide range of diversity in shape, color, texture, and size throughout my series. The colors and imagery represented in each piece are based on the models’ picture submission and personal preference. If there is no direction, I re-imagine what I see organically. I paint every submission received and hope to keep this series ongoing by continuing to welcome all models. I am always excited for new growth and potential.
Pink Things: What does Pink or mean to you? What is your relationship with pink? How do you see it represented, literally or metaphorically, in your work?
Jacqueline Secor: There has been some commentary stating that my images look “infected,” or “gross,” and I feel that is because my representations aren’t pink and smooth. Our society has created a culture around what the vulva is supposed to look like, and assumptions like this perpetuate the stigma. I believe femininity, like pink, comes in many beautiful shapes, sizes, and shades.
Pink Things: What inspires you?
Jacqueline Secor: Mother Earth, life cycles, and prehistoric and indigenous art.
Pink Things: If you had advice for a young creative, what would it be?
Jacqueline Secor: Embrace your failures. Seek out those who inspire you. Never be afraid to ask questions. Trust yourself and what feels authentic to you.
ink Things: What’s next for Jacqueline? Any exciting upcoming projects?
Jacqueline Secor: I hope this series will be ongoing. I feel there will always been room for individuals to celebrate their individuality and the Diversity of Nature series is a forum where this can take place.
I also have another series that I continue to work on titled Defying Extinction.