Collection: Paradise Lost

Visions of Eve and the Forbidden Fruit by Hannah Moghbel

Hannah Moghbel is a realist oil painter. Based in Colorado Springs since 2014, she was born in Germany, raised in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania, and graduated from Shepherd University, WV with a BA in Art Education.

As a young child, I loved to run around naked. Like Adam and Eve, prior to eating the forbidden fruit, ignorance was bliss. Then I was taught that I had to cover my private parts and that modesty was a virtue. Sex and all things sex related were reserved for a man and a woman after marriage and everything outside of that was wrong and bad. On the importance of pleasure, how to express wishes, manage desires or hold boundaries, I was taught virtually nothing. Just Abstinence.

The sex-ed that I learned from overhearing my older brother’s friends talk was that penises and balls were something to be proud of. The bigger the better if bragging was any indication. In fact, the bigger they were, the faster you could run and the further you could throw a baseball. Meanwhile, being a wussy (a kid-friendly term for pussy) meant that you were either chicken or just plain weak. I did not have a penis or balls, I had something else. Due to a lack of information, like most children, I filled in the blanks. Conclusion: having a vulva and being a girl was something to feel embarrassed about.

I arrived at adulthood rather sheltered, having married the first boy that I kissed. Around the time of my divorce, I remember talking to a guy friend who described a woman’s vagina as being attractive. I don’t remember the terms he used, but I remember feeling naïve. I asked what made a vagina attractive, verses unattractive. He incredulously asked if I had never watched porn and explained that the pretty ones are small. Although this same rule applies to the rest of women’s bodies, I felt surprised. Were there women feeling shame for their unidyllic private parts comparing themselves to porn stars?

The first art exhibition I put together in a formal gallery space was as a senior in college. At the time, I was painting fruit to explore the messy feelings of lust, longing, and desire. While I was aware that these are all experiences that girls have traditionally been taught to shame and conceal, I was still surprised at how guarded viewer’s feedback was. People seemed embarrassed to talk about desire. It made me aware of how many hang-ups our culture still has about sexuality, especially female sexuality. This realization spurred me to address the root of shame more directly: Shame not only for our sexuality but also for our bodies which are home to complex desires and emotions.

My current paintings of vulvas create a sacred space for the celebration of human anatomy without judgement or objectification. It is my mission to normalize vulva diversity by paying homage to the natural beauty of physical variation. They are an opportunity to fill in some education gaps and to foster discussion about vulva owners' relationships with their bodies. Through these paintings, I hope to liberate viewers from any shame they may carry towards their own bodies and to restore a sense of innocence and wonder. Let us return to paradise for a moment.

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