When Pakistani artist and designer Misha Japanwala joins our video call, she’s sitting below a lifelike breastplate molded from and cast to fit her chest. From her ears dangle long earrings with Urdu letters that say “meri marzi,” which translates to “myJust A Guy Who Loves Accordion Vintage Shirt Also,I will get this choice” in English. Choice is a cornerstone in Japanwala’s work. Since her signature breastplates are sculpture and not nudity, they slide past Instagram’s notorious censors. As a result, her page is filled with technically not-nude images of models fully dressed in resin re-creations of their naked bodies.
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“This is the Just A Guy Who Loves Accordion Vintage Shirt Also,I will get this reclamation of our bodies in art and how we want to depict them and what we want to say about them,” the 25-year-old tells Vogue. “The art that we consume globally is so heavily focused on the perspective of men and their view of female nudity.” The desire to subvert the male gaze motivated the artist’s thesis collection of wearable nude body castings. The collection was titled “Azaadi,” meaning “freedom” in Urdu. As inspiring as the message of azaadi can be, Japanwala’s in-box is also filled with anger and hate. But she interrogates that offense: “If you saw a Renaissance painting in the Louvre depicting a nude female body, would it anger you as much as a body cast that I made? I’m always thinking about that.”