Monet had water lilies. Van Gogh had haystacks. Artist Stephanie Sarley has limes, papayas, grapefruits, and even kiwis to inspire her. On her popular but controversial Instagram account, Sarley has posted some suggestive, sensual videos in which she lovingly strokes, prods, and penetrates various fruits with her fingers. It’s a simple but potent technique that has brought the artist scores of followers and admirers but has also caused her plenty of headaches, too. The Daily Dot’s Madeline Gobbo recently chatted with Sarley for an in-depth article about the artist’s methods and motivations. First, to begin to understand Sarley’s work, it is necessary to view her most popular creation: a brief, silent video involving a halved blood orange and the erotic exploration thereof.

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The seeming similarities to certain parts of the human anatomy are not coincidental. Sarley’s career has been largely focused on witty depictions of genitalia. Among her other creations are the Dick Dog & Friends coloring book and a series called Orcunts in which orchids magically bloom between women’s legs. Sarley has also been known to draw cartoon faces in place of vulvae. But it is the fruit that has fired the public’s imagination most of all. How does an artist begin along such an unusual path? “Honestly, it was sort of spontaneous,” Sarley admits. “My boyfriend handed me an orange and I just started playing with it, then decided to make a video.” But oranges alone were not enough to satisfy her. Soon, it was on to peaches, lemons, and grapefruits. A bit of milk added to a lime creates an especially graphic effect.

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Though Sarley’s work has obviously resonated with viewers, many of whom find her videos “extremely educational,” the artist’s path has not always been an easy one. The notoriously prudish Instagram has disabled Sarley’s account at least three times now, and then there are the blatant thieves who steal the artist’s videos and claim her work as their own, sometimes even putting their own watermarks on her art. Sarley is not a fan of memes or viral culture, it seems. She complains:

I feel washed out by being memed. There’s no way around feeling that way, when you see your art somewhere, it just takes the life out of you. I can get up and move on from this, but I know it will never get off the Internet.

So an article about feeling up papayas actually turns out to be, in some respects, a meditation on the role of the artist in the internet age, when such concepts as “ownership” of art are becoming hazier by the day.

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