Baker and visual artist Mikel Ibarra makes pies that immediately grab your attention. To put it simply, they’re highly detailed vulvas of various shapes, sizes, and colors. At a glance one could easily describe them as provocative, unabashed, and bold AF. But I believe the true appeal lies in their crafts(wo)manship.
Be it the magnetism of sexuality or just plain curiosity, something made me stop scrolling my timeline to find out more. On the surface, I was amused by the tongue-in-cheek relationship between “pie” and “vulva,” yet underneath the flakey layer of lifelike genitalia I felt there had to be a deeper inspiration.
For Ibarra, it began with the birth of her fourth child, and a choice for the first time, to become a stay-at-home mom. The transition was challenging and all-consuming, resulting in a growing sense of loneliness and loss of self-identity. Motherhood had truly become her full-time job.
"Even though I had 3 older children, I had never stayed home with them, I had been a public school art teacher from the time I graduated college."
In response to what Ibarra describes as isolation, she dedicated her time to being the perfect mother. One that makes perfect meals in a perfect home setting. She would later come to realize that there's no such thing. Within her realization also arose a rediscovery — her love for baking.
"I became obsessed with baking from scratch, pies especially. I read somewhere that if I baked 100 pies, I would get good at it, so I set out to try."
As Ibarra worked towards her goal of 100 pies, she began sharing them with others, and even received requests. The growing interest was confirmation to start her own home bakery business, which lasted several years until success brought her to a crossroads: invest in a brick-n-mortar or quit.
Choosing the latter, Ibarra returned to teaching, which as it turned out, was a short-lived decision. Covid came and suddenly changed everything. During quarantine she would leave teaching behind and find her way back to doing personal art.
“During that time, it was so clear that we strive so hard to attain perfection that only exists in the entertainment and beauty industries. One morning, I had the idea that I could make art that used my baking skills to delve into feminist themes of sexual objectification, oppression, and sexism.”
Quarantine had become the conduit through which her teaching background, baking experience, and visual arts training would merge to create Pies In The Window.
Like candy-coated capsules, Ibarra’s vulva pies cleverly conceal the underlying message. They make you consider what initially attracted you, while challenging your perspective of what womanhood is and how it should be depicted. The art walks a thin line between shame and bravery, ensuring that whichever side you fall on, you’re left feeling something. It’s that feeling that Ibarra hopes will inspire further self-examination.
“I want people to enjoy seeing my work and then go as far with me as they are comfortable going. For some people, it’s just to see a vulva. They are just excited to see the work and they don’t think about any deeper meaning. Other people are fans of figurative art or normalizing the human body, they want to remove the stigma and shame around seeing nudity and appreciate the form. For others, they can sit with it a little longer and think about objectification and sexual exploitation, how our bodies are commodified. Those thoughts aren’t as fun, but that’s the less fun part about having a vulva.”
As such, while the vulva pies are certainly edible, Ibarra considers them sculptures, and chooses to only sell photo prints of them. I feel as if that decision helps to inspire further conversation surrounding the diversity and duality of the vulva.
Since launching the Pies In The Window project, Ibarra has expanded her artistic palate to include cakes and tarts. In a series called “Fresh Meat,” the cakes resemble a woman’s lower body packaged in a styrofoam meat tray. Each is wrapped in plastic and even comes with a realistic label.
To check out more of the Pies In The Window art project, and also join the conversation with Ibarra as she explores female empowerment, acceptance, sexuality, and objectification, follow her on Instagram.