Introduction

Flowers. Fucking. Flesh. And wild, open landscapes… Wanda Orme’s artwork fuses explicit imagery with elements of the natural world. In Hot House, a series focused on female masturbation, pretty petals are sprinkled over vintage hardcore pornography (Wanda cheerily describes them as “pussy-forward images filled with sensation and feeling”); elsewhere, there are naked self-portraits of Wanda scaling unearthly rock formations; and slaky erotic Polaroids discarded by the saline waters of the Salton Sea. The work is at once epic and intimate: “I’m intrigued by the real driving deep mechanics of being human,” she explains. “Bodies, sex, instinct, desire.”

As relaxed in front of the lens as behind it, ex-model Wanda’s photographic journey began on her 14th birthday when her mother handed her an Olympus OM10. “I’m an only child so I’ve always created stuff,” she says, “it’s what I did when I was alone, it’s my way of being.” She continued shooting and writing poetry throughout her studies – Anthropology at UCL in London followed by a MA at the University of California, San Diego, and then a MA in Psychology at NYC’s New School for Social Research – before finally walking away from the stifling atmosphere of academia to pursue art. “But I’m so grateful for those years at college,” Wanda’s quick to point out. “I can’t detach myself from it: the way I think and perceive my reality is completely shaped by it.” It’s this strict, trained intellect combined with a freewheeling openness to the carnal, that makes her pieces so intriguing – and why I was curious to see how Wanda would respond to Maidens of Fetish Street.

“A discomforting mix of menace and comedy” was her initial reaction to the film, adding “the lesbian sculptress scene was a particular favourite.” But, more profoundly, there was also “something of a very human struggle going on” that really appealed: “In each scene, there is a feeling of a harrowed but almost admirable striving to move beyond the immediate, to get somewhere else, in a relationship, in one’s self – a kind of hunger, or desire. All the women are like projections, sometimes their own but, in most cases, those of others. Almost as if there is no single woman present in the film, just a shifting kaleidoscope of projections against a screen.”

This last thought gave Wanda the idea of photographing a projection of Maidens of Fetish Street. “There is something of collective memory and consciousness in projections, perhaps this is what makes them dream-like,” she says. “Some of the lines of dialogue I felt I’d heard before or even said before, like they’d already been shared. I knew them as a woman can know them.” Using the 19th-century cyanotype printing process, Wanda started producing a collection of blue-tinted images: the maidens of Fetish Street undressing, gyrating, teasing and lounging, each accompanied by an excerpt of script. Suddenly, these isolated moments seemed to come from a different film; stolen frames re-assembled to tell an alternate story. A new narrative – ethereal and transcendent – was materialising out of the seedy shadows of the original…

Angel’s Flight poem

there are two ways of looking at everything
you are certainly welcome to your own
opinion
you remember her? of course you do, how
could you possibly forget
i’ve seen you, that’s true
i saw that sensuous walk begin
i’ve seen you wearing less than you’re
wearing now
i’m a soul watcher, a dreamer of faces
i see a face like yours and i dream a soul to
match your face
do you know how fast i can turn a trick
i know all about life
would you like me to dance a little bit for
you?
just to torture a man
she may not be the best around but she
certainly knows how to gratify your desires
nectar from the gods courses through her
veins
sandra, you’ve been here before several
times
are you now becoming concerned for your
safety?
with fascinating undulating hip gyrations
this motivates unexpected excitement within
you
the sexuality that was dormant inside you,
becomes more and more unbearable
why did sandra have to turn out that way?
why couldn’t she have been meant for you
isn’t that what you’re thinking nick?
this is the angel’s flight

angel's flight Gallery


Wanda Orme is a multi-disciplinary visual artist and writer. Born on the Isle of Man, raised in London and lost in California, she recently returned to London after living and working in New York City. Her photographic work and writings have been published and exhibited in both Europe and North America, including her first book of poetry, The Becoming Light of Water. Recently, she collaborated with the luxury lingerie, bondage and sex toy brand Coco de Mer.