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Family Portrait

For more information on this work please contact me.

Mama's Natural Breakfast

Description: Toi Sennhauser’s breakfast table offers homemade bread, whose yeast starter includes a touch of her own vaginal yeast. Served with butter and honey, this piece is the kind of social experiment she’s been working with in recent years, in which a socially unacceptable element is part of an everyday transaction. The person approaching the work has to make certain decisions: whether or not to accept that “socially unacceptable element,” what it means to ingest it, is it really improper?
For this piece she’s replaced the bread’s vital force with the power of femininity. Women and bread are one: life-giving, nourishing, and universal. It’s an old pun, but one that’s rarely been used in such a physical way.

“Mama’s Natural Breakfast”
At Seattle Erotic Art Festival
2005
Medium: wood, fabric, flour, water, salt, baker’s yeast, vaginal yeast, current STD test (neg)

Oktoberfest

Description: Somewhere between 7,000 to 4,000 B.C., in Mesopotamia, in the Kingdom of Sumeria, women invented beer. Early agriculture in the “fertile crescent” was centered around grains. Those grains, pregnant with possibility, became bread and, eventually, beer. Sumerian women were both the first brewers and the first gods of beer. By adding a trace amount of my vaginal yeast to regular brewer’s yeast, my “Original Pussy Beer” pays homage to beer’s ancient creators from “the cradle of civilization.” Woman is literally reunited with the beer.

Yeast, because it has been used for millennia, carries a great amount of symbolic weight. As a key ingredient to basic sustenance like bread and beer, yeast is an age-old, familiar and very powerful medium to work with. Food, and our complex relationship with it, is mythical; when we eat and drink, human happiness and sorrow, love and hate, heaven and hell are simultaneously displayed and represented. If beer is food, and food is life itself, then beer too is life itself.

Experimentation with these historic staple foods, in combination with my own body, helps to build a new artistic dimension: understanding through taste. To experience an art piece through taste is a two-pronged experience. The viewer has to make a simple decision – to ingest it or not. From this primal question new questions quickly arise: Is it socially acceptable to drink beer that includes even a trace amount of vaginal yeast? Is it natural? Is it kinky? Can a man drinking this beer still be macho? Why does it make such a difference when it comes to the human body?

It is these questions about society’s ever-increasing disconnect with the human body that I try to expose and learn about by feeding the viewer. By sharing my art in this way, I share my body and mind, inviting the viewer to have a conversation on a genuinely intimate level. Essence meets essence. The participants begin to understand me and I them.

Humanity was built on beer and conversation.

“OKTOBERFEST”
At Crawl Space
2005
Medium:
wood, crepe paper, fabric, malt, malt sugar, water, brewer’s yeast, vaginal yeast, current STD test (neg)

Fashion is Delicious

Description: Art patrons had a choice of either boy’s or girl’s underwear to choose from. These intimate delicacies were deep-fried to order at each of the Fashion is Art events out of a street vendor’s cart. They were served with homemade chocolate-ginger-chai sauce, berry coulis, or honey and tangy yoghurt whipped cream.

The objective was to lure people into literally ingesting (and digesting) a piece of art. I wanted the audience to be faced with eating, and enjoying, the taste of an article of clothing that is usually considered too intimate for public conversation. Common ingredients can take on new meaning when their form is changed, and individuals can be forced to change their thinking about food and sexuality in a public setting. This takes them out of what is known and into new personal territory.

This “performance piece” was installed on each of THREAD’s opening nights and remained on-site as an artifact-in-residence.

“Fashion is Delicious”
At Fashion is Art
Bumbershoot Festival 2003, Seattle
2003
Medium: Wood, metal, wok, peanut oil, flour, salt, sugar, spices, berries, lemon juice

Baby Lotion Collection

Description: I started my baby lotion collection as a young teenager, at that crucial time when girls get interested in the kinds of beauty products that will turn them into women. My make-up phase didn’t last long. Spending early mornings with lipstick, eyeliner and mascara (things that didn’t seem to look good on me anyway) gave way to a healthy preference for sleeping in late. But lotions, the makers of soft skin and seductive odor, those I liked. They were not just luxurious; they were also protective, empowering, calming and playful.

As I got older I realized that I didn’t want to switch from the subtler, sweeter baby lotions to the overly perfumed smells of “adult lotions.”

Therefore, certain baby lotions began to correspond to specific events in my life. Lotions began to store and protect my memories. I purchased different lotions in different countries and different situations, using the lotions to cure homesickness, lovesickness, etc. with a safe and familiar brand of “aroma therapy.”

When I use a particular lotion the memories add up in layers, just as skin is constantly shed in layers. The lotion becomes part of my mental and physical make up – part of my very life. Is this obsessive? I don’t know, but like an olfactory diary the lotions somehow bring order and security to my life.

“Baby Lotion Collection”
(slide format: tin can with label)
At Soil Collections and Creations,
Bumbershoot Festival 2003, Seattle
2003
Medium: Tin, baby lotions, ink, plastic

Cellf

Description: Rows of egg yolks, carefully balanced on thin suspended strips of Plexi glass.

“Cellf”
At Of Sustenance, Secrets, and Two Girls
SOIL Gallery, Seattle
2003
Medium: 100 eggs, plexi glass

My Mother, Pregnant Furniture

Desciption: I am adopted and I have never seen my biological mother. As a result, I’ve always longed to see her features and to know that someone looks like me. I often think about when she was pregnant with me, as it is the only time we ever had a close relationship. Motivated by the need to recreate the features my mother may have had, coupled with a deep appreciation for the pregnant body, I gave birth to her belly in the form of a hug-able, maternal couch-scape.

“My Mother, Pregnant Furniture”
At Of Sustenance, Secrets, and Two Girls
SOIL Gallery, Seattle
2003
Medium: Fabric, wood, foam

Welcome

Description: A dark red, felt-enclosed chamber with a basin of warm milk at the center.
Viewers were invited to wash their hands, arms and face with the milk provided.

“Welcome”
At Of Sustenance, Secrets, and Two Girls
SOIL Gallery, Seattle
2003
Medium: Fabric, wood, warm milk

Remember

Description: A performance piece for the duration of the opening night. Invisible to the viewer, I was sitting inside a fleece-covered box, with only my thumb sticking out. From an IV drip, hidden underneath a miniature skirt, fresh raspberry sauce was dripping slowly onto my thumb and finally onto the floor. The objective was to lure people into licking the raspberry sauce of my thumb and listen to their reactions.

“Remember”
At One Night Only #7
Pioneer Square, Seattle
2002
Medium: Fabric, wood, IV, raspberry syrup

How I Learned to Recreate the World or How to Feel Right Now

Description: A collaboration with the New York poet Matthea Harvey as part “Collaborations,” an artshow curated by Emily Hall and Fionn Meade of Seattle. Visual artists from Seattle were paired with literary artists from New York. Their ensuing collaborations explored the interface between the visual and literary arts. The results were exhibited in Seattle’s SOIL Gallery.
My installation with Matthea Harvey was based on a poem she wrote, and on the cryptic, secretive, and direct messages we used to communicate.

“How I Learned to Recreate the World or How to Feel Right Now”
(slide format: school desk)
At Collaborations
SOIL Gallery, Seattle
2002
Medium: Wood, metal, chalk board, bananas, peaches, grapes, pomegranates, strawberries, apples

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