COFFEE WITH AN ARTIST | Aurora Reinhard – Fairytales, Porn and the Everyday

Artist | Aurora Reinhard (b. 1975) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts – department of Time and Space Art, in Helsinki in 2003. Reinhard is known for her video, photographic and sculptural work dealing with themes of gender and sexuality, her approach varying from documentary to surreal imagery. Reinhard’s works are included in numerous Finnish public and private collections. The artist lives and works in Helsinki.

Featured Image | Aurora Reinhard, Artist and Model, 3D-print, 2017

Article Images | Courtesy of Zetterberg Gallery and the artist


In Venus, her latest exhibition at Zetterberg Gallery, Aurora Reinhard explores the Venusian spell, female sexuality and the stereotypical imagery around it. All of the works present self-portraits, as the artist poses and depicts herself in different roles.

Employing nudity and explicitly sexual images, the show gives audiences a shocking first impression. Once this superficial layer has faded, a closer look opens up a conversation about acceptable behavior for women in the society, the stigma around being sexually open, human instincts vs. the fear of being judged, fairytale models we grow up with, as well as  some effects of the less-romantic porn industry.

Female imagery and sexuality are recurrent themes in your work – why the interest in exploring this?

My work is often related to the image of a woman and the way her identity is transformed in order to become more sexually appealing. I’m interested in studying the way women can take ownership of their bodies without being stigmatized or objectified. Even though we are living in a modern society, the way in which a woman should present herself and behave is still highly traditional. This applies to men as well, not only women.

I also try to look closer into the dynamics between men and women and the way we inhabit this world together. Men’s sexuality is different from that of women and I still cannot understand what exactly determines this.

I’m fascinated about the fact that we cannot change what’s inside of us and who we are. Even though modern societies seem to function based on rational thinking, to me this is just a façade and in reality we are acting out of our instincts. And I think it is worthwhile to discuss these aspects that are often considered tabu.

Where does the ”appealing” image of a woman stem from in your work?

The images come from stereotypes we build while growing up – like fairytales, stories and movies, as well as from the media culture that surrounds us nowadays – including fashion, advertising and porn industry.

For instance my piece A Fairytale refers to the Cinderella story, but combines elements of a fashionable high-heel and a plastic doll with a ”real” woman’s toes. In High Rider, the shape of the lower body is similar to that of a Barbie doll while the upper body looks like a pair of scissors. To me, the open legs hint to sexuality, while the scissors represent the rational side. The idea for the piece came from an advertisement I saw that presented a collage of women’s legs and scissors labeled ”dangerous sexuality”.

That’s interesting to hear because I saw something different in this work. I linked it more with the perfect shape promoted by the fashion industry – the scissors hinting to the fact that a woman needs to constantly ”cut out” or reshape parts that are not fitting with the ideal body image.

Yes, the underlying idea is the same – women often need to build an image, they need to harden up a bit in order to succeed, or to be perceived as successful. I think once you gain power you are more free to make your own rules – but before you achieve this, it feels like you constantly need to reshape and readjust yourself. Not only physically, but this serves as a metaphor.

At least in the Western world women are not considered lower or less intelligent than men. We have the chance to become anything we want to be professionally if we just believe in ourselves. But we still don’t have so many women idols that are truly powerful in their profession, women who have gained worldwide recognition. I’m always thinking of Martha Stewart as an example for the way she built her own empire and business around women and “female culture”.

Your show Venus at Zettergerg Gallery caused quite a stir. What was your starting point for this exhibition?

I’ve always been fascinated with the fact that a woman needs to be pure or a virgin in order to be considered ”good wife material”. I wanted to do something more raw and less polished to challenge this – so I looked into the porn industry and the repetitive images of what is considered to be sexually attractive in a woman.

The main question was – is it possible to be openly sexual and in control instead of just being a passive object or a victim? If you look at the prints, the imagery is not so much about sacrificing one’s body, but trying to take the benefit of it.

Do you think being openly sexual and being ”good wife material” exclude each other?

I think it depends in which society circles you are. But as a woman you’re always afraid of being labeled a ”whore”. It’s somehow irrational where this fear is coming from – is it built in or is it something you learn? Does it come from models built by fairytales, movies, stories or from somewhere else?

In your 3D color-printed miniature sculptures you also depict the power balance between man and woman, artist and curator, viewer and object of desire. Let’s talk a little bit about these three settings.

The Dream Team figurines show the woman in a dominatrix role, but she is blindfolded. She is driven by her desires and led by the man who cannot stop following his own desires. They are both dependent on each other. It’s like an endless rat race, so neither of them has more power. The name of the piece is also conflicted – you’re hoping to meet that perfect match but it’s not so easy to find it in real life.

In Artist and Curator – To New Adventures the artist seems ready to do anything in order to be successful. Being an artist means that you are always dependent on someone showcasing your ideas or buying your art – which shifts the power balance towards the curator. Still, despite the uneven balance of power between the two, they also need each other. To New Adventures means that they can enjoy the journey and build great things together.

Artist and Model presents me in a double role – as the “heroic” artist (who in the history of art is often male) studying the nude which is actually the artist herself posing.

Researching pornographic images was part of your work for this exhibition. What is your take on the porn industry as a whole?

I am not interested in porn as a means to satisfy my psychophysical needs. Porn has developed so much and became so varied, that you end up wondering – how extreme can it be anymore? On the other hand it must have also done a lot of good, together with the raise of the Internet. It has definitely spread knowledge around sex and different sexual practices. So I’m sure that now people are more free to discuss it, at least in our society. Fifty Shades of Gray and Tom of Finland are just some of the latest examples of sexuality becoming a coffee table chat topic.

But porn also creates addictions – some people cannot have sex with their partners anymore, because fantasy tends to be so much more powerful than reality. Which is not a good side-effect. I watched a documentary where Kullervo Koivisto – who worked in porn industry for 35 years – said that ”porn is destroying all the beautiful things between men and women”. I don’t know if it applies to everyone but he has a lot of experience on the topic.

We always look for easy satisfaction, which is why people are easily addicted to drugs, sweets, alcohol. Porn also grants this fast pleasure, no effort needed.


AURORA REINHARD – Venus at Zetterberg Gallery is on display through 2 April 2017.