Femmy Otten, Undressed Days III, 2021/2022*

*Art in the stairwell.

Hanging in the stairwell to the first floor is a large marble droplet with ears, noses, mouths, faces, penises and vulvas. It’s the first of three installations by Femmy Otten (1981) created especially for the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. Hearing, smelling, tasting, seeing and feeling come together here to explore one human whole. While classical sculpture often presents the penis as a symbol for virility and masculinity, Otten includes multiple vulvas to similarly normalise the power of female sexuality

Video by Gerrit Schreurs

In a second small relief, Otten combines two penises with a painted poppy, linking fertility with a symbol for comfort, sleep and dreams, referencing the artist’s own experience of motherhood. The third element of the installation is a mural with two wings which, if you look closely, are also two long skirts. Clothing is a means for concealing what we don’t want to be seen, while the wings ward off shame.

Femmy Otten’s work exposes contemporary social issues and fears surrounding gender, motherhood and sexuality. Her human figures are not male or female but hybrids, aiming to break through taboos while shying away from activism. Otten’s work is also not limit to one genre, encompassing drawing, wall painting, and sculpture in plaster, wood and marble, testifying to a broad interest in classical art, Indian drawing and painting, and the imagery from the Middle Ages.

Femmy Otten (1981)
Undressed days III, 2021/2022
Marble, tempera

Image: Femmy Otten, Undressed days III, 2021/2022. Photograph: Gerrit Schreurs