What do botany, BDSM, and medical examinations have in common? On the surface, you would be forgiven for assuming nothing, but Sarah Mihara Creagen artfully threads an unlikely line of investigation through all three, engaging the various tools and apparatuses used by each group as starting points to discuss sex and sexuality, care, health, and consent. Creagen’s artwork explores these themes as they relate to her experiences with IBS, and her identity as a queer, white-passing cis woman with mixed-race Japanese heritage.
Working primarily in drawing, as well as installation and animation, Creagen creates a visual language that references medical texts, comics, botany, and pulp magazines, among other influences. Drawings such as Sisters’ Fart Corner are inspired by Japanese Edo-period fart competition scrolls. Using the historical form to draw-out personal themes, Creagen’s large scale drawings are in direct contrast to the original scrolls (approx. 12 x 400 inches in length). The original scrolls were, as far as we know, entirely created by men with men as their primary subjects, and it’s unknown and unclear if they were meant to contain political commentary. Creagen subverts the form with the insertion of her personal narratives.
Creagen employs humour in her practice to confront subjects conventionally considered uncomfortable, such as flatulence and bodily fluids. Boldly dominating the composition, the characters of Creagen’s work propel themselves across the page with great gaseous farts or powerful streams of piss. The absurd scenes combined with the confident and easy demeanour of the characters provide the playful conditions to explore these taboo subjects.
Much of Creagen’s art pushes against current social norms. She describes the BDSM influences in her drawings as primarily an interest in power dynamics. Here BDSM is a tool to safely and consensually explore the exchange of power through the performance of different roles.
In a similar vein, her use of plant imagery also illustrates the dynamics of social relations. Staking, for example, is a strategy used by gardeners to encourage a plant’s growth. The gardener inserts a post into the ground and props up a drooping limb to support the plant from failing. Staking is used in Creagen’s drawings as a tender visualization of care and support versus restraints. Resurrection plants (from the poikilohydric plant family), feature in many of her drawings. These plants can withstand extreme drought for months and even years by drifting into a dormant state. Though it appears to be dead, as soon as water is reintroduced to its root system the resurrection plant springs back to life within hours. It can shift in and out of this period of life and lifelessness many times. Creagen draws upon these qualities of resilience and hope to speak to themes of self-care, isolation, and renewal.
Throughout Creagen’s work, apparatuses intersect and morph into each other; the speculum, the dildo, the chastity belt, ropes, and bondage implements, gloves, a switch/ twig. The interplay between soft bodies, sterile medical instruments, erotic sex objects and botanical elements, acid colours, and voluptuous lines, enriches Creagen’s work. She expertly weaves these elements together, formulating rich connections through dirty play.
- Essay by Ariane Fairlie