Laura Windvogel is an artist making waves around Johannesburg because of her candid approach to all things sex. Known as Lady Skollie, one could say she is part activist, part thug, all artist and very much using her dynamism to make a mark in the creative industry.

The name Lady Skollie, she notes, was once a way to reconcile two sides of her personality, but has since become a sort of badge of honour she wears everywhere she goes. “Right now, Lady Skollie is a superhero version of my true self. Just a Laura 2.0”.

Since moving to Johannesburg, Lady Skollie has been at work on her art, promoting various exhibitions and getting in tune with the city.

“I guess my highlight would have to be seeing my name on street signs for a Mail & Guardian feature emblazoned with ‘LADY SKOLLIE VS. THE ART WORLD’. The feature happened
a month after settling into the city, it was a good way to set the tone.”

Another payoff is having produced work for the SEX Exhibition at The Stevenson Gallery in Johannesburg.

“It’s the largest work I’ve ever made and I think I now have permanent nerve damage in my left hand from cutting out about 200 bananas. It’s called ‘The Woman made me DO IT – a phallic ode to the blame game we were born into’.”
 
Themes in Lady Skollie’s work are clearly centred around issues of sex, gender, relationships and sexuality and while that is the simplistic description of her work, she says she is not defined by it.

While it used to be a conscious decision to keep her opinions and art seperate, she mentions there were a lot more instances where she was at times a combination of disturbed, disgusted and excited by certain social issues.

“I realised that by drawing that slight “anti-activism art line”, I had been holding myself back and keeping valid, funny and engaging opinions away from an audience and also myself away from that artistic direction. So I reconsidered.”

Her latest exhibition #HOTTENTOT $KOLLIE for example, plays between this realm of art and activism.

The show is entirely inspired by the life and tragedy of Sarah Baartman. In it, Lady Skollie explores the theme of objectification and the hyper-sexualised female form.

She scrutinizes both the power of the gaze and how this has influenced the way women have been percieved through history, and also how in a new digital era, a choice exists to take control of what we let people see but that in-turn can contribute to an increasing sexualisation of the body.

“In this selfie-driven era, the gaze on the ‘booty’ is a never-ending cycle. Baartman being the star of her freak show ‘Hottentot Venus’, sends echoes through history in the way women are still perceived. The platform for objectification has shifted, it’s no longer on a physical stage or cage but in a digital realm.”

“My family used to call me ‘Saartjie’, the diminutive form of Sarah, as a joke. I remember being consumed by a vague feeling of shame. Now my ass has become my Samson’s mane; I draw strength from it. I revel in it.

On creating the work, a highlight was literally putting her personal stamp on it.

“We painted my booty with PVA and stamped it on sheets of Fabriano. It was a good change to have such a physical immersion in the work.”

“Also the research part, it was hard to absorb a story as tragic as that of Sarah Baartman. As a coloured woman, the story of Baartman should be a unifying one; spurring us on to question our thoughts around fetishization, objectification and how the black female form is consumed.”

There is the flip side of this where she also questions the power of the selfie and its contribution to the stereotypes about women of colour.

“I take pictures and videos of it that I’ll never share because what if I contribute to the over-sexualization of the black female form? What if I’m just a 2016 version of Sarah rolling in my digital grave trying to find the perfect ass pic angle?”

Activism for activism sake is a bit shallow she notes, and thinks artists should address social issues in their work if the art speaks to them and they have an authentic need to do so.

In her words, it’s important for creatives in the industry to be consistent and aggressive. Africa is rising with many eyes gazing on what we have to offer.

“Don’t let anyone negate the importance of your experience and the way you prefer to translate it to the world.”

Her worst fear is boredom and it’s also through her love of excitement that she enjoys being wowed.

Her work notably does the same.