Cunts and Roses

“Guns and Roses” by Shepard Fairey

I am a big fan of Shepard Fairey‘s art, not least this Guns and Roses piece.  I love the surreal idea that roses might be violent, or that guns might unexpectedly shoot out peace.  And of course, guns are often used in the name of “peace,” which is perhaps part of Fairey’s point in this pic.  That said, roses are also romantic.  Sexy, if you will.

But why?

Back in England, when I was studying Shakespeare for A-level, we were told that the red rose was common a symbol for the female genitals in Elizabethan times.  That’s why William Blake’s poem, The Sick Rose, in which an “invisible worm” infects such a flower, has been said to be about syphilis, a disease that was often spread via sex.  Of course, I could see other reasons why the rose might represent the cunt.  Those velvety folds of petals, their circular arrangement, the heady perfume they often give off…not to mention the way the flower seems to deepen at its core.

While we’re at it, A-level English Literature classes also taught me the origin of the word “cunt.”  If you don’t know this, you might be surprised to hear that the term derives from “quaint.”  Yes, that’s right.  Back in Medieval England, one did not wish to actually talk about vulvas, so instead of using a more clinical or rogue-ish term, people would instead refer to “her quaint” or “my quaint.”  How bizarre that this word should now be the subject of such political debate, when really it was a euphemism to start with!

And of course, back to Shepard Fairey, guns are often phallic symbols in our society, so we could say that beautiful piece of his is very, very sexual.  Perhaps it suggests “Make love, not war.”  If so, I couldn’t agree more.

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3 thoughts on “Cunts and Roses

  1. Love it, Lana! I’m a huge Fairey fan myself, love the symbolism he uses, and the way the nuances in his work offer up the evocatively poetic. I find it especially thrilling when I spot his work on a city building, or a street sign. This piece, in particular, no doubt, is a concrete example of the beauty that lies in making love instead of war. All puns intended. ❤

    • Thank you, Lindsey! I totally agree, and you say it so beautifully. And yes, I know what you mean about spotting his pieces on a building etc. Did you see the Shepard Fairey exhibition when it was at the ICA? My gosh, I loved all those amazing pieces, one after the other, row upon row. Since then, no other exhibition of modern art (no matter how unique) has compared…at least, for me.

      • Yes! I was blown away by the ICA exhibit. What a perfect place for showcasing Fairey’s work, the provocative and progressive juxtaposed against the minimalist lines and white walls of the ICA. True art indeed.

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