Latex fetish artist Miss Meatface has likely been gracing your screen on some corner of the internet for the past eight years. Her work is an enigmatic staple from the glory days of Tumblr, and is often reposted on various Instagram accounts dedicated to fetish art and history.
Known for her latex housewife persona that mixes 1970s kitsch with heavy bondage aesthetics, artist Kat Toronto explores this character (and its subservient counterpart, the Meat Maid) through portraiture. Miss Meatface photographs are typically exhibited as large-scale digital portraits, but Kat has always felt an affinity with her much smaller-scale polaroid work; the medium brings to mind the ‘70s pastiche Miss Meatface is known for.
With her new monograph set to release in 2023 through Circa Press (and funded by Kickstarter), fans will be able to see (and touch) Miss Meatface’s polaroids on a larger scale. Kat now lives permanently in the UK with her partner, but is still much beloved by kinky art nerds in the US like yours truly.
What follows is a meeting of the fetishist minds where we discuss the new monograph, the difference between ‘sexual’ and ‘erotic,’ and why you’re never supposed to mention PVC to a latex fetishist.
Annie Rose Malamet: I have been an avid follower of your work for a very long time. Like since you started back in –
Miss Meatface: 2014.
I think I saw some images on Tumblr and then I was like, this is so cool. I have to go follow her because I love fetish art as well. You’ve been doing this latex fetish housewife alter ego for a long time. Are there going to be any other characters that you’ve created in this monograph?
So in the monograph are Polaroids that are featured in that specifically are very Meatface-centric. In the beginning, say, late 2014 and going to 2015, those are more recognizable as how you’d think of Meatface today. They’re much more sexually-charged and like you actually see my face and a lot of them they’re a bit more straightforward, just like straight-up fetish. But you can see the progression. And I haven’t really pinpointed it, but I think the moment that it turned into Meatface proper was when I started wearing the cat side glasses with the latex mask and I stopped showing my face completely.
I guess it’s kind of a different character, but at the same time, I feel like [the character] is more Kat than Meatface. In a way it was the last vestiges of Kat holding onto this, going through this weird transformation. I’ve actually been thinking of turning things more towards me as Kat the artist again. Just so it’s not so focused on the one Meatface character and branching off and trying different personas.
You just said that the photos where you’re more “Kat” are more sexual and in my mind, your work really illustrates the difference between sexual and erotic.
Oh, that’s interesting.
I was reading in your other interviews and you said that the Miss Meatface photos kind of helped you get in touch with another part of yourself while you’re shooting, which isn’t inherently sexual, but because the photos use fetish aesthetics, it is inherently erotic.
Wow. Yeah. That’s right.
Does that resonate with you? Do you feel like there’s a difference?
Wow. No, that’s a great question. (laughs) Sexual, like I get that, you know, I can feel that, but erotic, it makes it, it sounds so, so fancy.
I know, it is a fancy word.
It’s so fancy. Yeah. I’m like, oh gosh, I’m not that fancy. It makes me think of Victorian nudes or something in a beautifully lit studio, perfectly posed and everything. But no, that’s interesting. But now that you’ve said that, I’m going to think about that when I’m working. That’s really interesting. I never would’ve thought of myself like that at all.
I’m so glad. I mean, it’s my favorite. I feel like a lot of kink—as somebody who’s in the kink community—it’s very… people are not having sex necessarily the way that you would traditionally think of sex. So a lot of your poses and scenes that you’re doing kind of echo a kink scene that you would do in a contained space and you’re not necessarily literally having sex. But there is a charged element of it that I would say is erotic because it inherently recalls for the viewer.
Yeah. Yeah. Totally.
Without showing it explicitly.
You get the latex purists that are like, what the hell are you doing? And are just completely turned off by this concept. And then you get like the fashion purists that are like, what the hell are you doing?
I also was kind of going in another direction and I was thinking maybe you might be inspired by seventies camp like John Waters.
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been a fan of John Waters for a really long time. When I was a kid, my dad took me to go see Crybaby and Hairspray. I grew up with those films and always loved John Waters. I’m also inspired by—and this goes along with the John Waters inspo—the aesthetic of the sixties and seventies and the garish colors and patterns. I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with and attracted to that aesthetic. It must be because it brings back memories of my grandmother, which—
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Sort of ties into your housewife persona. It all comes together to create Meatface.
Yeah, exactly. So it’s all over the place.
What does Meatface love about garishness?
Back when I started, it kind of felt like the idea of putting latex with tacky vintage clothing was like, “Oh my God, you don’t do that.”
Right, because of the traditional aesthetic.
You get the latex purists that are like, what the hell are you doing? And are just completely turned off by this concept. And then you get like the fashion purists that are like, what the hell are you doing? You know? So I’ve always liked the idea of let’s just throw in the kitchen sink and then go from there. It’s playing, it’s having fun.
It’s interesting talking about the latex purists, because I’m thinking about what you just said about the word erotic, you think of it as like a beautifully Noboyushi Araki photo. There’s the old guard fetish community, and everything needs to be tailored and perfect in a certain way.
Very much, yeah. Like head to toe, all full enclosure, no straying off that. And no PVC. Don’t even mention PVC.
What has drawn you to this idea of the fetish housewife that’s wrapped head to toe in latex?
It really stems from my connection to my grandmother. [My grandparents] were very suburban and formal. That was a foreign language to me growing up as a kid because both of my parents were very eclectic. My dad is a photographer and a journalist who loves John Waters. He went to San Francisco in the early seventies and he became very good friends with Scrumbly from the Cockettes.
So that’s my background. Then when [my parents] divorced, on the weekends my dad would take me to my grandmother’s house and she was a pretty significant caregiver for me. So she had a huge impact on me and I grew up in this completely different world when I went to her house. I went from my parents who were big hippies to my grandmother who lived in this perfect house, had shag carpeting everywhere, family photos on the mantelpiece, completely out of my realm. And it was fascinating because it was like, what the hell is this?
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That’s where my Meatface persona kind pulled her energy from, these memories of my grandmother. Because it was such a comforting space. I remembered all the smells and the textures of her drawers, her dresser drawers in her bedroom. And the old perfume and the pantyhose and the stockings and her leather gloves. And this later on in life all translated into a fetish for me. The smells of the old perfume with the pantyhose, stockings, et cetera. Later on, in my work doing Meatface, it turned into this really comforting space for me. Miss Meatface became this persona that I could turn into and be free to explore my sexuality.
I was also always interested in historical costumes. As a kid, I had my mom teach me how to sew. When I was 12, I made my first Victorian corset reproduction. What middle schooler is staying at home so they could work on their period costume, like an 1860s hoop skirt, and a Victorian corset?
“Miss Meatface became this persona that I could turn into and be free to explore my sexuality.”
Perverts are kind of dorky about our fetishes. It’s the best. It’s interesting that you are talking about the corset, because I had a question about that. That was your first experience with fetishism when you made this Victorian corset. I personally love Victorian fetish role play because the costumes and the protocol are so restrictive.
And latex too, which is why I imagine those interests have intersected for you.
Can you tell me about what you love about latex and corset fetishism? Why does that call to you?
With latex in particular, I was first attracted to it because of how it looked in photos. It was so shiny and it just clings and just holds onto your body so magnificently. It’s beautiful. But also once you actually get into it and do full enclosure, like head to toe, it’s an amazing feeling having your senses completely cut off and just being. Once your body warms up and becomes acclimatized to having the head-to-toe latex on, it’s an amazing feeling and it’s so perfect, it’s the perfect temperature. Once you get to that balance, it’s absolutely comforting and lovely. It’s almost like armor in a way.
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It’s just a lovely, comforting feeling. And with corsetry, God, I’ve always just loved the idea of being able to manipulate the shape of the body. I’ve always been into that and I’ve always loved 18th-century side hoops and I’ve loved busts and hoop skirts. Just the way that you could manipulate your form just by creating these things was amazing to me.
It sounds like the comfort that you feel when you’re in latex or full enclosure is very close to that comfort that you felt at your grandma’s.
It’s like being wrapped up, you know, being swaddled or something. That’s a lovely feeling. And then if you put sex stuff into it, you know, major bonus.
But sort of like wearing the latex, I find in my experience is almost like sex.
It is a sex act. So tell me about the upcoming monograph and what we can expect. I’m very excited to buy it for my kink coffee table.
I’m so excited about this book. It’s been in the works since 2018. I have self-published my own work, but the monograph that I’m doing with Circa Press. It is going to be exceptional and it’s going to be a lovely hardbound book. What really sold me on it when, when I was talking to David from Circa Press about it, is that the Polaroids themselves, they’re not just going to be flat against the page. They’re actually going to be slightly embossed. I’m really excited about it.
My Polaroids in general, they haven’t really seen the light of day outside of a few exhibitions I’ve done at Untitled Space in New York, who I’m represented by. I had a solo exhibition there in July of 2019. There were some [polaroids] in that show, but a lot of times people want to feature the digital stuff, which I understand because it pops, the colors are all there. Polaroids are such tiny little treasures that I absolutely love, but I can understand how they could be difficult for people to get hyped up about just because they are so small and maybe the lighting isn’t so great, and the colors aren’t popping like a giant digital photograph. I’m just excited that this body of work is going to be out into the world so that people can see them.
The polaroid fits so much into what you’ve been talking about in regards to this nostalgia. You’re really influenced by old-school fetish magazines, like Bizarre. How is your work similar to that? And where are the points that it deviates?
Specifically with John Willie’s Bizarre, I remember seeing a copy of Best of Bizarre Magazine. And I thought, oh my God, these are amazing. John Willie’s illustrations of the women with no arms or their arms pulled back and then turned into ponies and the ballet boots and the extreme thigh-high heels and the pictures of Bettie Page. Just from pure aesthetics, I was like, “oh my God, this is me.”
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But then I started realizing that in his work, it’s all these damsels and distress. Miss Meatface is not a damsel in distress. She’s turning the tables on the whole concept. And my Meat Maid is my damsel in distress. So instead of the women being the helpless little ones, I’ve turned that whole thing around and I’m doing that with my burly Meat Maid. That’s where I have fun with it, just toying with these ideas. When I met my partner (the Meat Maid), I was very much submissive and he was dominant, and that was perfect for me at the time. But after maybe a year and a half or so, the tables completely turned and I decided I wanted to be a villain. I want to be the one putting the smack down, tying him up and, and putting him in a dress and forcibly putting makeup on him. This all really added to the Meatface persona and the photo shoots.
That’s wonderful. Can you tell me a little bit about the Meat Maid?
The Meat Maid came into being around 2016. I started incorporating the Meat Maid into photo shoots. Having the Meat Maid there is a wonderful twist to the narratives now. It’s funny because when [I’m in this persona], it’s weird but I kind of think I am channeling my grandmother, but in this latex universe […] it’s the weirdest thing, but it makes perfect sense to me.
It makes perfect sense to me, too. It’s all inherently weird, but you can just see in your photos how comfortable you are with each other, the connection that you have and how lovingly you’ve curated these scenes.
And that you’re in charge. You’re the creative voice behind it. That’s very obvious. It just works, the clash of the perfect pristine latex with this garish decor. Like, it is very uncanny, but I think that’s why people are so drawn to it. Do you have some favorite fetish brands or are your pieces custom?
We’re really lucky because my partner has been part of the UK fetish scene for ages, so he knows everybody. Many of our friends work for Libidex, Breathless, and Broke Boutique. We’re lucky in that I either get bits and pieces from people, or I just borrow things. Friends are usually willing to let me borrow clothing for shoots.
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During lockdown in 2020, I taught myself how to work with latex. So I was making my own latex waist cinchers and blindfolds. In a pinch, I can put something together. It takes so much space and chemicals. You need lots of space and airflow because you’re working with chemicals, so usually I’d rather borrow pieces.
Can you speak at all to the difference between the UK fetish scene and the US fetish scene?
Compared to the UK, the US pales in comparison that the scene. With that said, I really want to attend Torture Garden in Los Angeles. We performed at Torture Garden in New York City in 2019. And that was amazing.
One more question: what are some of your favorite films that explore fetishism?
Meet Me In St. Louis – there is a fabulous corset-tightening scene between Judy Garland and her older sister as they prepare to attend a ball that stuck with me from the very first time I saw this film as a child!
Pecker– one of my favorite John Waters films that features some awesomely camp BDSM with the added bonus that the film is about a photographer and the “art” scene!
Cabaret – what can I say, I absolutely adore everything about this movie and the sumptuous Weimar-era aesthetics it oozes…
I’m also obsessed with films/shows about mannequins that come alive and ventriloquist dummies. Two shows in particular that had a huge impact on me were two episodes of The Twilight Zone, “The After Hours,” about a woman who forgets that she is a department store mannequin, only to return to the department store to be taunted and tormented by her fellow mannequins. And “The Dummy,” about a ventriloquist who believes his ventriloquist dummy is alive. Another ventriloquist dummy favorite of mine is the 1929 film starring Erich von Stroheim called ‘The Great Gabbo’. I love the concept of dolls or mannequins coming to life, or the other way around, turning into a mannequin or a doll.♦