One in the Hand

by William J. Simmons

Marilyn Minter Releases Plush
You’ve probably seen or heard of Marilyn Minter’s new book Plush,--a no-holds-barred set of photographs of beautiful and exuberant female pubic hair. When I was coming home for the holidays, I felt badass because I brought it with me on the plane (Sorry Mom and Dad). In another era, I may have been jailed for transporting pornography across state lines, which would have really added to my street cred.

Minter’s project is a deliciously feminist act, but people can’t seem to get past the surface. Minter has had a wildly productive and varied career in art for over 30 years that deserves a variety of interpretations beyond the obvious. Plush is revolutionary not only because of the subject matter, but also because of its masterful layering, detail, and allusions to the history of art. Plush is simultaneously a celebration of female-bodied sexuality and the power of Minter’s multifaceted practice.

Time is central to Plush; it took time for the models to grow back their previously lasered pubic areas, and this waiting and longing--as opposed to the immediacy of pornography--is seen in the photographs themselves. Steam and glistening globules of water distance us, and the mesh of underwear allows only some strands of hair to push through like swirling, errant brushstrokes. Imperfections further slow our vision--chips on fingernails, freckles. We must wait to enter Minter’s world; we cannot just enter--penetrate--this sensorium. Perhaps most important is the book itself, whose rippling texture is like the pubic hair with its layered tactility. This cannot just be experienced online. Minter is even turning two images from Plush into paintings on enamel, creating yet another substrate of feminist meaning.