Maisie Cousins is known not only for her exhilarating art, but also for her outspoken personality and intimate blogging style.
The London-based photographer’s striking, but relatable imagery naturally thrives among a social media-savvy generation, and Cousins has been utilising online platforms to showcase herself and her work since she was 14. “I think I’ve always naturally shared my work online, as it gave it a home,” she explains. “It then became a way of making friends and networking with like minded people. Most of my closest friends I met through blogging in some way.” The word is well and truly out: 2015 saw Cousins collaborate with Petra Collins and present at the Tate, and she’s recently appeared on Dazed & Confused’s “Dazed 100” list.
Regardless of where you might have first come across Cousins’ work, the glorious grossness of the imagery sticks with you. Her use of texture, colour and femininity all question traditional concepts of beauty. These images are undeniably beautiful in their uncomfortable nature: a gooey representation of all the snot, shit and slime that makes up humanity presented in a way that teaches you to appreciate it. Maisie says she’s “always been attracted to things that may be a bit ‘gross,’” and it shows. With her distinctive take on nudes, Cousins’ work explores the human form from every angle, representing women with an honest gaze. The shots are more alive than living; food for thought made from jelly and snails. There’s nothing explicitly sexual in these images, but the fluids and flesh fill you with the same disturbed delight of tasting your own orgasm or someone else’s sweat in your mouth. It’s an enjoyment of the taboo, the parts of living we’ve been taught to treat with sterility.
Cousins’ championing of all aspects of femininity, from pus to blood to nose hair, has repeatedly been declared a feminist statement. It’s a statement that doesn’t lose its effect in its repetition, a statement that is still powerful and still necessary – but also a statement that is easily applied when others don’t know what else to call work by queer and female artists.
Although Cousins doesn’t see this as “particularly unfair”, because there should be a pride in being a feminist and producing feminist work, “what can be frustrating for a lot of queer and female artists is that it is seen as only feminist,” she explains. “The place it has in the art world is labelled purely as ‘feminist’ and that can keep a lot of doorways closed for the potential of the work and its wider audience.”
The artists that Cousins admires are ones that are as multi-faceted as she is. Her inspirations range from Susan Sontag’s essays, to the works of Pipilotti Rist and Peter Greenaway, the latter less surprising as she reveals that she’s really excited to be getting into video work for 2016.
This coming year, Cousins doesn’t just expect more from herself but from everyone else too. Two major changes she’d like to see are “more artists hired for jobs instead of large advertising agencies ripping them off,” and a “more honest representation of what a body looks like.” Seeing Maisie’s own use of diverse people and their bodies, it’s obvious why the artist would want to see similar representation throughout the art world. It’s a bold ambition, but perhaps more people with follow suit as Maisie Cousins’ influence continues to grow.