Roller derby is great. It's truly amazing and the people that are part of the roller derby world are amazing. We play in a relatively small but growing sport with little coverage outside of the teams themselves so when someone creates a buzz about it in any media it gets picked up on, shared and welcomed in the derby community. Riikka Hyvonen is an artist that has done this.
First of all I too loved the fact that Hyvonen had created art about our sport and it was getting attention from the world, not only that but it was about our precious bruises that we all adore when we happen to receive one. As time has gone on and I myself have approached the bruise, aka "derby kisses" in my own art I am finding fault with Hyvonen's portrayal of the marks.
Women who play derby are all shapes and sizes, we are proud strong women who play a contact sport with a strong feminist lead. The issue I have the more time I spend looking at the paintings of Hyvonen's is that they are overtly sexualised, focusing mainly on the bottom of a woman and the poses make me think of a peep show.
I understand that they are hyper realistic and over exaggerated but it irks me somewhat. Not but 5 years ago Roller Derby was a sport with no real identity and 'boutfits' were a thing; playing in fishnet tights, rara skirts and punked out shirts were part of the attraction of the game, women coming together to hit each other on skates and take charge of a contact sport! Even in my three years of playing it has changed dramatically, gone are the days of 'boutfits', (you will still find the odd painted face in a bout) and in are the matching team uniforms, sports leggings, team sponsorship, woven patches of associations and world championships.
Derby names are still a major aspect to the skaters but some pro-skaters have reverted to their actual name to come across as more respectable, in my team alone we have a Wilma Wheelsmove, Skegness Monster and I myself, Abbottoir to name but a few. These changes in the sport makes me look upon these painting as if they are outdated and come across as if they are from a male perspective, the stereotypical portrayal of a women who skates.
The colours and swirls of the background seem to take away the impact of the bruise itself where as the main focus of my photograph series, Trophy, are the bruises. I wanted to show the female form with bruises, to challenge the notion of abuse and the strong nature of a woman. My opinion on these paintings has indeed changed since tackling the subject myself and what I wanted to gain from the images I produced. At first I did enjoy the paintings but the more I think about them whilst the information keeps surfacing on social media there is something troubling about them, I would like to see a bit of diversity in the placement of the bruise, as I can assure you it's not just a bottom and thigh that gets marked and the wide angle viewing approach makes me feel uncomfortable as if I am looking at pornography.
The pornography aspect of these images, since discussing my feelings on these paintings with my team, is one of they would feel uncomfortable showing these paintings to their children, especially young girls. The concept of using the "pin-up" style of bodies rather than showing the bumps, scars and marks of the everyday skin whilst putting a lot of effort into the detail of the bruise feels very similar to an airbrushed model of the media of today.
Roller derby is a sport that strives to provide women of all walks of life, and now a growing male participated sport, a place to get physical and have a fantastic time on skates but these images are as if women have been pulled back to bare sexualised objects, not sportswomen proud of their marks. I wonder if male bruises would be portrayed in the same way.