As a child, her mother was obsessed with fruit. Peaches, papaya, mangoes, all the soft, fragrant flesh of African summer fruits, which she would buy obsessively. "If my father went on business trips she'd spend all the money he'd left on the first day, just on fruit. And for the rest of the time you wonder what you're going to eat, and your mother's just like: 'Eat a watermelon!'"
Years later, these squishy, unctuous fruits found their way into Lady Skollie's work, her vibrantly coloured inks confusing sex and food, featuring banana genitalia, apples cut open to reveal labia, curvaceous women with papaya heads, filled with bright black seeds against deep orange flesh. "My obsession with fruit and sex really started by relating my mother's longing for fruit with a sexual thing," she says.
The paintings are a riot of bright yellow, rich red, verdant green and bubblegum pink. Her work is full of repetition and abundance, it's cheeky and vulgar, provocative and celebratory, and often balances on the fine line between delicious and disgusting. Her most popular works are her Pussy Prints, infinite repetitions of yoni (her preferred term), all individual in design but which en masse become pretty, abstract designs. "You should turn them into dresses," I tell her. "Everyone says that," she replies.
In person, Lady Skollie, aka Laura Windvogel, is a force of nature, garrulous and grinning, shaven headed and tattooed, very warm and very cool. With her, everything is in forward motion. She tells me about her work, not only the drawings and paintings but the sex positive radio show she used to make, Kiss and Tell, the zine she put together, Kaapstad Kinsey, which came out of a party she hosted asking people to share their sexual stories. She does a lot of outreach work too, speaking to young women in deprived areas about empowerment, reproductive health and social justice.
Growing up in Cape Town, while her mother was in thrall to fruit, Windvogel had her own obsession: art. She coveted colourful art supplies. So much so that if she couldn't afford them, she would employ some light kleptomania. "I was a kid who always tried to test the social boundaries of things," she smiles.
For me, the smell of stationery and of crayons especially is synonymous with early art love
She went to an extra-curricular art school and can remember exactly the sense of intoxication when she stepped into the art cupboard. "The smells. It's intense," she says. "Paper and wax crayons. It's a very specific smell. I would just chill in the art cupboard and we'd make pulp out of the paper," she remembers. "For me, the smell of stationery and of crayons especially is synonymous with early art love."
It's funny to think of that now, Windvogel adds, because her current studio, at the Bag Factory in Johannesburg, is the only studio in the building that doesn't smell of anything. "Because I only use drawing inks," she explains. "Even though it is a very sensuous things to be an artist, I don't like getting my hands dirty, at all. So things like clay or sculpture never appealed to me, it freaks me out. Even oil paints." She chose her medium precisely because she can't smell it.