Introducing Bobbi Rae

‘Private Parts’ has been a passion project for our museum, and has included the work of some amazing people in order to pull it off. We want to shine a spotlight on the artists and creatives involved in making this collection a comfortable space to talk about uncomfortable topics. 

Bobbi Rae is the genius behind the fun, colourful and inclusive illustrations you’ll have seen across social media and the exhibition itself. We sat with her and talked through what it was like to be apart of ‘Private Parts’.

“It was a really special opportunity to be able to work with Thackray and Hungry Sandwich on the exhibition. I’m a big advocate for body positivity and that’s exactly what this project was about; celebrating the parts that often stay in the dark. It’s time we talked more about our ‘Private Parts’. Be gone with the stigmas and push harder for equitable access to intimate healthcare for everyone. It’s been a real privilege to be able to promote these values and I hope the exhibition is something that the locals of Leeds and the general public stop and pay attention to.”

When she heard about this project, Bobbi knew it was the right fit. “If you’ve ever seen my work before, you’ll know that this project was right up my alley. There was no way I was ever going to say no when I was asked to illustrate a grapefruit which ‘looks a bit like an anus’…” With a slight change in direction, the characters were born – a new vagina-inspired grapefruit, an intersex representing plum and a self-explanatory aubergine.

Bobbi has worked with the museum before on our fun wall of illustrations that you may have seen in the ‘Normal and Me’ area of the museum, an exhibition with similar aims to ‘Private Parts’. “Thackray isn’t shy about exploring topics that sometimes make people cringe. I think that’s really important in today’s age. It’s all too easy to keep quiet about the things we’re quiet about, just because we always have been… But the more we converse and the more we learn, the better we understand ourselves and the greater society can be for others.”

There was a lot of work that went into this process, so Bobbi clued us in on what it was like behind the scenes as well as her favorite part of the gallery. “In the gallery, as you walk in on your right, there’s an illustration of lots of genitals. Some might look like yours, some might not. The illustration aims to highlight the nature of genital variation. Not just that ‘all vulvas and penises are different’ but that there is a whole swathe of genital formations considered ‘in between’ or intersex. Intersex genitals are thought to be as common as having red hair, yet, they’re rarely mentioned, included in anatomical reference books and certainly, never graffitied on disused phone booths. Thackray commissioned the illustration with the aim to question our perceptions, and societal norms and to highlight the issue that binaries are tosh. I think it’s my favourite part of the exhibit. 

All the best ideas made it into the gallery, but there were some pubic rugs and other textile pieces that sadly did not, due to health concerns…” – that sounds like quite the trip hazard! 

In developing the storyboard for the animation, we had loads of silly ideas, but we just couldn’t fit it all in. So, if you know anyone who wants to commission a full feature-length Private Parts animation, there are lots of unspent goods!”

If you want to see what Bobbi is up to next, keep an eye on her website. She says “The work I make for my online shop is an ever-evolving process and I hope to get lots of exciting new things up on there this year! I’ve also got a few projects underway with some Leeds locals and another with a big household name (can’t say too much just yet though). Lots of exciting things coming up. I’ve heard it’s supposed to be a lucky year!”

Private Parts is running now until the 11th of May so come down and see the exhibit for yourself!