by Barthaz | photos courtesy of Tawny Armus
Tawny Skye Armus is a feminist artist, activist, entrepreneur, and gallery coordinator based in Memphis. She has made a name for herself already in her short career having just graduated from the Memphis College of Art (MCA) this past spring with a Bachelors of Fine Art in Sculpture. Her brand, Femme Pots, can be seen at almost every local art sale such as Cooper Young Festival, Memphis College of Art’s Holiday Bazaar, and the popular East Buntyn Art Walk, most notably.
Femme Pots features female bodies not limited by societal expectations of women; her sculptures showcase transwomen, breast cancer survivors, rape survivors, and women with figures akin to the Paleolithic sculpture, Venus of Willendorf. Since Armus started selling her artwork, she has always made it a point to donate a portion of her profits to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.
Before studying art at MCA, Armus had never taken a traditional art class; she was entirely self-taught. After completing a homeschool program, Armus went into the workforce and didn’t pursue art until she lost (by his own hand) a close friend. Heartbroken and inspired to pursue her own dreams, she then applied to MCA with the hope of becoming an animator. After having courses with MCA Professors Bill Price and Leandra Urrutia, she fell in love with sculpture and the feeling of being able to channel her energy into her art with her hands.
One thing that MCA and Urrutia prioritize is concept, something that Armus had never considered. Armus was afraid to delve into deep concepts, but Urrutia pushed her to talk about the things she didn’t want to talk about most – which happened to be sexual assault. She began making work with this concept and later realized that she could be a voice for the voiceless.
“I think when people talk about it, it feels like we’re not alone. It’s not okay that it happened to you, but it’s okay because we’re here together and it’s also like an ‘I believe you’,” Armus said.
Prior to making Femme Pots, she was making vagina wall hangings and other female pottery. She was interested in portraying the female form without the male gaze present and also normalizing breasts in public and online. Each series of artwork she creates tackles a different aspect of rape culture, like finding identity and community after an assault. Earlier this year, Armus created her own art show to bring together victims of sexual assault through her Me Too Exhibition. She is currently in the works of holding the second Me Too Exhibition in January 2019.
To Armus, working with clay feels like home. She describes the process as therapeutic and cathartic saying, “I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing, but at the same time, I’m doing this thing for myself that can help other people. So it’s kind of a win-win.”
Some of her biggest inspirations are from the likes of comedian, Sarah Silverman, and ceramicist, Roberto Lugo. Armus describes both of them as charismatic speakers who are both passionate and powerful. With her growing voice, she encourages aspiring artists to put their all into art and for viewers to not give power to assailants.
“There are hundreds of artists out there who deserve a voice in our community and can replace those who have done terrible things. I’m here to say “You can’t take the artist out of the art”.”