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An Instagram-based artist turns gender roles on its head

Artist Miranda Tacchia had difficulty smiling as a child. “Unless circumstances warranted jubilation, I just didn’t think it was necessary most of the time,” she says. This is the general tendency of the women who populate the 33-year-old artist’s Instagram page, @mrmtacchia. It is filled with women with strong eyes and strong bodies. They are refreshingly unapologetic about their sexual desires and body frames and loll around at home in unladylike ways in the nude. Mostly, they wear a heavy-lidded, disdainful attitude to a submissive lover. But more intimate moments reveal hidden vulnerabilities, puncturing their in-your-face confidence.

Unlike Tacchia, it’s not that hard for us to smile at her characters’ spunk. This is in recognition of experiences that range from the innocuous (impatience after a bout of online shopping, internal judgements while eavesdropping on coffee-shop conversations), to the more poignant (of gender, body, and sexual politics).

Scroll through the feed and Tacchia’s tone towards these topics is clear: The women are in command in bed, whether with a partner or alone. An illustration from 2017 has her character pulling her male partner’s hand towards her, firmly directing the dynamics of desire. “When he is being coy,” reads the caption.

Tacchia states that “captions are an important component” of her work, and the succinct words heighten the intensity of the moment, whether funny, sexual, or sombre. This is especially striking considering the bold simplicity of her drawings: “I like the idea of conveying as much as possible with minimal visual information.” A subset series, Portraits of the Unimpressed, has women perpetually disappointed by lovers or husbands, particularly when cohabiting.

Given her subjects and their undercutting of socially ‘acceptable’ gender roles, it’s not surprising to learn these illustrations are drawn as unconventionally, on Post-Its. “When you’re working a full-time job, it’s hard to find time to plan larger pieces and then ink them. Post-its were readily available in an office, and because of their small size I could do a lot of cartoons on them relatively quickly.”

Her day job is at animation studios, where she is a background and layout artist. Her work includes Star Wars vs. the Forces of Evil for Disney and The Powerpuff Girls for Cartoon Network. But in between such projects, she moves away from backgrounds and sharpens her knack of capturing the fleeting minutiae of facial expressions. This isn’t easy: In some pieces, the Post-It canvas is layered, and often in differing colours. “If I made a mistake, I’d place another note on top of the mistake and continue,” she explains.

Like most creatives of the generation, Tacchia had briefly found Tumblr a fertile community in which to grow her art. “Tumblr was a huge part of my online presence for several years. My first comic that got a lot of attention was ‘How to pet a cat’, a two-panel comic of a cat making a face that is familiar to anyone who has ever pet a cat,” she says. But now, Instagram, with 77.9k followers, seems the “ideal platform”.

Despite this, it is the gallery space that she finds more open to nudity and sex — a leitmotif in her work — than online platforms, where she’s had multiple issues of censorship. Her first outing was in 2017 in a group show on female sexuality in San Francisco Earlier this month, her first solo, Scandalized, opened at New York City’s Hashimoto Contemporary.

Regardless, her Instagram reach shows that women globally relate to Tacchia’s characters, unafraid to demand what they desire, and yet fearful of letting anyone in.

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