Sneaker Freakers will remember Insa from Issue 5 as the runner-up in our Custom Sneaker comp. Since then, the London artist’s career has been steadily on the rise, mostly thanks to his provocative explorations of the female form, many of which have made even the staunchest of ladies go weak at the knees! With such a subjective fine-line between interpretation, Insa’s obsessions will always provoke strong opinions. Indeed, the artist’s mysterious presence coupled with an androgynous non de plume has meant that many have often mistaken him for a woman! We posed some hard-hitting questions on the eve of the launch of the beautiful ‘Insa Heels’, made in conjunction with shoe designer, Ruth Shaw. Get you freak on – we certainly did!
How has the summer been for you in London? Have you found a heap of inspiration from the scantily clad ladettes and ladies?
The summer here in London has been pretty shitty really weather wise, and London girls tend to keep their clothes on when it’s cold unlike the hardened drinking girls of the North!
Tell us about your fascination with the female form and the sexualization of high heels?
Well my interest with women started when puberty hit, only joking! I have always had an interest in the female form as any hetero male would, but artistically it has been a focus for the last few years and it’s more an interest in the comodification of the female form than just straight up woman lust. I’m fascinated how so many things are sold to me by the sexualised image of woman and how that sort of sexuality has almost become removed from the individual.
How did these two themes come to overtake a lot of your work and how do curators and purveyors take to you, being so unabashedly upfront?
Well, it’s just kind of continued naturally as I experience living my life as an artist. As for the reaction from curators and purveyors, yes I do sometimes get the response that it is too sexual or possibly offensive, but I find that very surprising as I never made my work any more explicit than anything you would see on a billboard or fashion magazine or on daytime MTV. I think this is because when the image isn’t selling you something it’s more shocking, we actually notice the sexuality and not the product being sold to us. Like we have been programmed to accept this form of consumer sexuality as a different thing to the sexuality in our real lives.
Your high heels theme has been utilised in a lot of your past artwork from the sneakers that you customised for us way back in Issue 5 to your apparel lines. Did it never occur to you before to actually design a pair of high heels?
Well I have done custom high heels for a number of years, but I always originally wanted them to be treated as art pieces and not product. I have always shown them in my art shows. But after several years of requests day-in, day-out to buy them to wear, and as my personal interest in product as art and the crossover between art and design has grown, it felt like the right time to take these art heels and produce them for a wider audience.
Tell us about hooking up with shoe designer Ruth Shaw. How did you chance upon working together to create the Insa Heels?
Well we actually met several years back when she was working at Kickers and they had commissioned me to do a 30th anniversary edition. We got chatting about kicks we like and did a few swaps. I actually swapped her a pair of custom heels for a bunch of Nikes she had just picked up from a buying trip to Japan. And from then on, I had always thought that if I was gonna go into developing a shoe range I would contact Ruth and get her involved.
Do you see a distinct parallel with men’s obsession with trainers as you do with women’s heels? There is a running debate within the male sneaker collectors over which they prefer; a lady in heels or a chick that rocks sneakers. Why do you think such a debate exists?
I think the debate exists because men are always gonna ‘debate’ about what they prefer when it comes to women, tits or ass, blondes or brunettes. Although you could say the footwear discussion is a little more interesting because it shows so much about an individual. Do you like a lady in sneakers who shows she can do whatever you can and isn’t restricted by her sex, or a lady in heels who is clearly showing her difference sexually and using that to her advantage. I personally think a lady that can rock both is the best.
Has it been difficult as a male artist to approach your work with the female form as the dominating force?
The funniest thing is that I get so many people presuming I’m female because of the content of my work, strange I know. I see this as a compliment, as one of my fears is being seen as a misogynist as I feel I’m not, rather I am using the sexual imagery that is all around to understand our position in a consumer obsessed society.
We were lucky enough to score one of your insane calendars that you produced in conjunction with the Fuel Girls. Obviously cars and sexualised women go hand in hand, but as a woman I can definitely appreciate the eye you have for your artwork. How do women generally respond to your work and how easy is it to find the amazingly beautiful models and inspirations for your art?
Women generally respond very well to my work, and I would even go so far to say I think I have a larger female following of my work than male, judging on the emails I receive. As for models, we find them all over the place. I get loads of email/MySpace requests to model, which is good, as for me it’s quite important to work with models who know the work and are into the whole idea.
Do you have a foot fetish or a footwear fetish?
It has to be a footwear fetish. It started with sneakers as I never originally had a thing for heels but now as my work has developed all I spot when out and about are nice heels.
What do the Insa heels say about you as a man?
I’m not sure, what do you think it says about me as a man? Perhaps that I have an unhealthy obsession with female clothing and I’m a perv obsessed with the power of female sexuality. Or perhaps that due to growing up with very strong female role models (my mother and sister) and being in a committed relationship for 10 years, I am in touch with the femininity that surrounds me. I’m not sure… Crikey! I thought this was just a site for people that liked sneakers a little bit too much and not a psychiatrist’s couch!
Hahaha! So when will the Insa heels be dropping and how can the ladies (and lady boys) get a hold of a pair?
INSA HEELS are dropping sometime September and will be available exclusively from www.insa-heels.com. There are only 100 pairs available in this first range so be quick.
Pics courtesy of INSA