At first glance, you might not be able to identify the subject of Ranier Amiel Wood’s series Vulveré. That is part of what makes them captivating. These renderings of the most intimate, vulnerable, and hidden parts of a woman are at once bold, explosive, serene, quiet and expansive. Each one of the paintings in the series Vulveré is a unique rendering of a woman's vulva Ranier has painted in a process that begins with ‘a witnessing’ which Ranier describes as “both a live sketching of a woman’s pussy and a ritual that allows access to her essence.” The Sensualist initially came across Ranier Amiel Wood's work years ago in an art exhibit in Harlem. Some of the paintings are more literal, while others are completely abstract, yet all of them feel like entering a distinct world. They are portals that contain elements of mystery, playfulness, and, of course, sensuality. The Sensualist spoke with Ranier about her process as an artist, how she came to this work, and what inspires her.
Tell us about yourself
I’m a single mama to a soon-to-be 9 year old boy and a large old dog. We moved to Brooklyn from Santa Fe, NM in August of this year after I received rather miraculous funding to pursue my art. I grew up in Santa Fe and then later Hawaii and have lived all over the world since. Previous to receiving the funding that has allowed me to do art full time, I worked with people and their bodies in a more physical way, teaching movement, fitness and dance for the last 17 years. I love to cook and feed people, love to dance, and spent a lot of my free time talking about the stuff you’re not supposed to talk about, and just generally be absurd.
How did you come up with the idea for Vulveré?
I swear Vulveré was something that came up with me (not the other way around)! ;) I was minding my own business, trying to fall asleep on a friend’s couch in Harlem and this thing came into me and I was overwhelmed with a vision. I saw these works, these large paintings of women’s most intimate geographies, shown in in a deeply reverent way. A show of work that somehow bypassed all the intellectual, all the ‘woo’, and landed a deep understanding of the divinity that is feminine in cells of those who saw it. All the hair on my body was on end, it felt like lightening in my veins. It was more than a little surreal. I wrote it all down, hoping to get it out of my head so I could sleep, and assumed I would go back to normal in the morning. Spoiler alert: I did not. Lol. At that moment I had never even seen my own vulva. To say my life has changed from that night, would be an understatement.
What has your artistic process taught you about sensuality?
Everything! It’s taught me everything about sensuality. Lol. I swear I have learned more through this process about humans, about sensual connection, about what’s possible and whats required for human connection than anything I’ve ever done. What is required for the artistic process to work, is what is required for sensual connection, they are the same. For example, in order for the paintings to ‘work’ or come at all, there must be honesty. The process happens and is sparked by radical vulnerability, and develops and expands through candid truth telling in a container of fundamental approval. Judgements and agendas must be checked, and allowance given for all that is, as is. The more fully we both show up, the better the art. Shadows, trauma, hard stuff can add gorgeous and essential color and texture to a painting when they are allowed out clear and with space. When kept clamped down, avoided, or shamed, the colors will often muddy and go strange. This is not ‘bad’, it’s just what is. When the woman is not present in her body, there will be empty space. Gold will often show her relationship with money. How the woman is in her pussy is how she will be at the root of her life. The things that show up in her painting will show up in her sensual relationships. The space I hold for them in their Witnessing, I hold for myself, and for a lover. It’s all the same, and as such has become a profound teacher for me in my own life and understanding of humans and sensuality.
How do you connect with your sensuality?
By painting, by dancing, by telling the truth. By following my desires (wild and mundane) and approving of however I am. If I am disconnected from my sensual or erotic nature I find it very difficult to paint, so for me this all has become non-optional. Though as a full time single parent, being connected in this way, looks a little different (and I would argue takes a bit more work) than it might if I was out on my own in the world...
How do you manage your schedule to make time for yourself? How often do you have self-care alone time?
I have had to be incredibly intentional about carving out time and designing a life that has space for me to create and to be alone. Single parenting is so fundamentally consuming and demands such a large majority of my time and band width, that I honestly don’t have that much (and the amount of time I have now is triple what it was even last year). I can go on a date maybe once or twice a month. I am alone a handful of times a week (usually while he is at school). But I know at this point, the ramifications of not taking time for myself pretty well, so I do make a conscious effort. Scheduling things like my weekly two hour erotic dance class, or even just time I can go back to bed in the morning, are key.
What are the ways you’re continuing to explore and learn about sensuality?
I take classes and read on the topic often. I also learn a lot from the women I paint and from my friends. I have an amazing group of brilliant wild women friends, who are pushing boundaries and exploring these concepts every day. They teach me a lot.
Who inspires you and teaches you about sensuality? Who do you look up to as a sensual role model?
Regena Tomaschauer and Kasia Urbaniak are two of my favorite women thinkers and revolutionaries in the world. I have also met through my work and impressive number of women who are re-writing the rules and expanding whats possible (certainly what I knew to be possible) in the realms of sensuality and sexual expression and understanding. Also, honestly, almost all of my closest friends. They up the level every time we talk I feel like.
What are some of your favorite products you use to connect with self?
I don’t tend to use much more than body oil, a hot shower and good sheets. Though I am curious to learn more about whats out there and what’s possible with it...