An art project depicting vulvas is a finalist in this year’s National Campus Art Prize competition. University of Wollongong students, Stephanie Hazelton, Eden Helmore and Claire Lanceley call it ‘Under Fire’. Their 56 metal tiling and 2D cardboard design hangs on the walls of the University of Newcastle’s Watt Space Gallery and is up for auction.

The concept piece raises awareness of female genital mutilation and the increase in females undergoing plastic surgery on their genitals. “We always talk about body positivity, but there’s so much more to that in this particular issue, especially within different cultures where it’s not just about feeling comfortable in your own skin, it’s actually people taking advantage of other peoples bodies without consent,” Ms Lanceley said. ‘Under Fire’ started as an experimental project by Eden Helmore, who wanted to see what effect would achieved on cardboard when two pieces of steel are welded on it.dsc_6383

“He presented it to the class and someone just said ‘huh that looks like a vagina’. What started off as a crude joke about burnt paper turned into an artwork, which ironically displays the body part that comes under the most fire,” Ms Lanceley

Female genital mutilation is most prevalent in Africa, where infants have their outer genitals neatened or removed. In African culture this is done to provide males with better sex. The practice is done for non-medical reasons and is illegal in most countries. “It’s taboo to talk about it but I think it’s just as important for a male to be talking about this and raising awareness”, said Eden Helmore.

“Trends such as labiaplasty and pubic hair removal can be traced back to the porn industries exponential growth,” Ms Hazelton said.

“It’s getting to the root question of why does changing their body make them more comfortable? We want it to be thought provoking. We wanted the audience to be overwhelmed by how many different kind of vulvas there were and how each one is slightly different, unique and yet they’re all beautiful.”