Jessica Yatrofsky’s art often seems like an invitation. Through her photography—including, notably, her books I <3 Boy and I <3 Girl, which explore themes of gender and identity and liberation in a provocative way—Yatrofsky addresses body politics in a compelling, conversation-inducing manner. And now, with the limited-edition release of her poetry book, Pink Privacy, she brings that same artistic viewpoint to a new medium. (She has also just released a video for her song “Cunt Keeper,” made in collaboration with VR artist Lauren Moffatt.)
Tomorrow, Yatrofsky will perform in an immersive pop-up performance at Miami’s Art Basel, and, in anticipation of that, we spoke with the artist about her recent ventures into poetry, what privacy means to her, and... vaginas.
You’re well-known as a photographer and a visual artist, but this is a book of poems, so I wanted to talk to you about your interest in writing.
When I introduce myself, I introduce myself as a visual artist. That is confusing to people sometimes, I think, because they want to really identify what it is that you do. But as a creative, I feel like that is very limiting, and I see myself as allowing ideas to dictate the medium. I was trained formally as a painter, but as I moved through my experiences as an artist in different modalities, different training, up through college, through graduate school, I was investigating ideas through many different mediums and picked up skill sets along the way. And I think writing is one of those things that... it’s sort of one of the first things, after reading, that you learn to do as a child. When you start doing creative writing in school, it’s very much about your imagination and creativity, and then, for some people, there’s a catharsis because you’re expressing something.
For me, I was always visual, but I loved creative writing. I used to write a lot of poetry when I was younger, and I had gotten out of touch with that. And when I moved into the college years, all of the writing was academic, and I didn’t have time to really keep a diary or do any sort of writing that I would consider as creative. And when I started to write this book, it was if I was getting back in touch with my former creative writing self, and that was so empowering. People approach me in this serious way because of the subject matter that I tackle in my visual art. So [when they do], we’re talking about body politics, we’re talking about gender, we’re talking about the nude form. All of these sort of very heavy topics. So when you think about the visual art, there’s a directness to it that is heavy, but then when you read Pink Privacy, there’s also a directness to it, but you also get to see my sense of humor.
[But] it’s not this different person writing Pink Privacy. I am the same person, with the same sense of humor, and I think this particular project highlights that aspect of my personality a little bit more. Because Pink Privacy is a self-portrait in many ways that the photographs are not. The photographs are... you can see what I care about, you can see me in them, but I don’t necessarily feel like I am always representing myself in a portrait of someone else.