For better or for worse, Playboy magazines of yesteryear helped shape modern American culture. On one hand, the magazines were beautifully curated, filled with culturally relevant pieces on politics, tv/film, the future, etc. Yet some ads, cartoons and columns have a more harrowing tone — “just slip this into her drink” reads an article title from a 1970’s issue about aphrodisiacs. Other articles suggest crude ways to force women into “lowering their defenses” if they come off as ‘prude’ or ‘argumentative.’ Most of the techniques suggested include alcohol and force — something we see echoed throughout modern Me Too stories. Illustrations created by revered cartoonists go as far as making allusions to rape. Although Hugh Hefner was for women’s rights, outspokenly supported abortion and engaged in conversations with feminists at the time, Playboy’s underlying misogynistic tone of the time is undeniable. My work exposes this reality, and simultaneously creates a new one where the female body is reclaimed by a female artist. As an artist who has experienced sexual trauma, I seek to reinvent old and outdated sexual symbols in order to shed light on painful topics. By reflecting on the past, and specifically using 1970’s Playboys as a lens for cultural critique, I deeply believe we can begin to heal and reconvene a culture that has been prominently written and curated by men for men. When one woman tells her story, it encourages others to speak their truth, discuss difficult topics, and create strategies for building a more female-centric future.
Nicole Pollina is a New York based artist currently living in Los Angeles. She graduated from Bennington College in 2014 with a focus in Drawing, Painting and Printmaking. Her work has been featured in the Museum of Sex in NYC. Nicole’s output largely focuses on creating a new visual language in order to reclaim the idea of femininity and sexuality as portrayed in popular media.