Visual artist Lydia Nobles develops sculptures, films, and installations that question the stereotypes surrounding gender dynamics. We had the chance to speak with Lydia and learn about her empowering work. Gender identities, in particular, motivate her creations. Lydia wants to initiate conversations of our individual prerogative to redefine our relationships with gender expression.
Through her art, Lydia asks society, “How do we stop repeating the same patterns over and over?” This question suggests a necessary action for all of us to look inwards and hold each other and ourselves accountable – recognizing where erasure is happening, how to stop it, and how to change the narrative to inclusivity. From piece to piece, her work looks dramatically different. However, the same themes remain prevalent as time goes on. She makes us wonder, when will our culture allow humans to simply exist as their truest, most authentic selves, rather than conforming to society’s idea of what it means to be male or female?
Lydia’s internal strength to point out gender inequality through her art both evokes emotion and educates her viewers. Lydia exclaims, “I strive to shift perspectives to create an alternative reality where gender identities are non-confining, and women are not put down for being themselves.” Lydia dives into the topic of slut-shaming, hoping to erase the criticism around actions that defy gender expectations. She is dedicated to reclaiming the feminine identity through understanding that other women are also facing feelings of inferiority. Lydia notes, “My experience in high school with [slut-shaming] is why I am here today and so interested in gender roles. I wonder if these experiences were drawn to me so I can speak on it today.” This statement is not only powerful, but provides a sense of purpose to the pain Lydia once endured, as she uses her past to reinvent the future. This inspiration is only the beginning, as Lydia comments, “All women have experienced–at minimum–something that didn’t feel good based on our identity. I think shifting our perspectives around that into something more positive changes that reality.” And we at Zoe Elle so agree. We are all for women lifting up other women, and being a voice for each other!
Lydia takes the concept of societal pressures on women a step further by commenting on the “pressures” men feel to exert as a masculine persona. The ultimate goal is recognizing the power in individuality and celebrating the respective differences in our gender expressions. Lydia takes note that, “We focus so much on how men can shift their perspective of women, but it is also how can we shift our perspective of men.” There is no excuse for treating someone as lesser because of who they are, no matter how they identify. Stereotypical gender roles affect us all, and men truly suffer from these toxic expectations, as well.
The current cultural narrative forces women to restrict their human urges out of fear that society will reject them. Young women, especially, must have the space to explore their sexuality without the pressure to hide the fact that they are human. In her 2020 installation Vulvogram, Lydia discusses the female as someone that should be listened to, rather than played with. It reveals that a woman has a powerful, dynamic voice despite society’s pressure to make her stay quiet. It’s a clever display of female anatomy that is thought provoking. My favorite piece is Green Reflection where Lydia allows the female’s body to be showcased as a living, working, beautiful part of nature. In a world where women are often objectified, this daring perspective is refreshing.
Notably, she mentions how in women’s clothing there is a size zero. That zero tends to be something young girls strive for. The thing is, zero equates to nothing. So by making girls feel they need to shrink their bodies to fit society’s definition of beautiful, we are essentially telling them that the less space they occupy, and the quieter they become, the more acceptable they will be. Lydia mentions that, “the efforts toward a more sustainable marketplace resides in the hands of the female.” Lydia emphasizes that women are the most powerful consumers. Women are the ones most often making purchases, meaning they are the ones fueling the economy, making them a critical part of the capitalist system. This concept is best described by Bridget Brennan, a notable speaker and author who focuses on gender dynamics within a capitalist system.
Lydia uses a variety of unique materials to create her work and even collaborates with her dog.
Sustainability and ethicality are important to Lydia. She recycles items from primarily male-dominated sites, such as construction waste, beer gardens, or welding companies and incorporates them into her work. From donated rubber tubing to a Planned Parenthood chair, her work is simply environmentally conscious and one-of-a-kind.
The role of an artist is to move their viewers, and undoubtedly Lydia is doing that. She’s an artist; one who is passionate about changing society’s view of gender dynamics, and strives to initiate a conversation through her abstract interpretations of gendered norms.