My work looks at the contradictions between the culturally sanctioned perceptions of fragile femininity and the strongly transformative and oftentimes grueling physiological experience of menstruation. With imagery that teeters between precariously contained sanitization and suppressed rage as a consequence of gendered subjugation, I aim to convey both the brutalistic realities of biological determinism (maternalistic/reproductive expectations) as well as the frustrations of a gendered body that is restricted by its edifice. My intentions are to re-contextualize menstruation as a rigorous corporeality, one which contains simultaneous emotional states of ambivalence, shame, masochiscm, elation, anxiety, dissociation, as well as a mystical kind of feral liberation. I create figures with superheroine underpinings, nodding to She-Ra and the women cartoonists movement, utilizing dark humor that celebrates the powerful and unedited mess of menstruation while also positing a strong female archtype that rejects the societally imposed physical obligations of someone who posesses a “womb.”
What threatens from the outside only threatens insofar as it is already within…it is not that the abject has got inside us; the abject turns us inside out, as well as outside in. – Sara Ahmed
Through my artwork I aim to directly confront the culture of disposal that surrounds menstruation. I draw on Julia Kristeva’s theory of ‘abjection’ and use visual representation to evoke an affective response. Menstrual blood is abject as it is neither subject nor object; it cannot be singularly defined because menstruation exists both inside and outside of our bodies, occupying a beautifully liminal space. This ambiguous duality triggers discomfort, disgust and the desire for disposal. However, by painting with my own menstrual blood I challenge this desire to dispose and instead celebrate the complexity and fluidity that is inherent in our periods. When painting, I strive to have as much contact with my menstrual blood as possible. I primarily use my hands, fingernails and my mouth as tools and the shape of every piece is guided by the blood’s natural viscosity. Menstrual blood is distinct as it includes uterine tissue and vaginal lining giving it a variable consistency depending on the body’s cycle. Through each piece, I strive to remove menstruation from the margins and visually center it to provoke a renegotiation of its existence.
“Bathroom Sculpture” reimagines the culture of tampons as a playful break from the conventional attitudes of a discreetness associated with menstruation. The sculpture’s ideal hanging place in a private bathroom suggests a sincere acknowledgement of a daily activity, which may be as routine as brushing one’s teeth. The brightly colored tips of the knitted tampons shift away from the passionate, rich, representations of menstruation that seek to reclaim the natural process as something bold and powerful. Rather, these friendly tampons are made precious and in6mate in their hand-knitted softness. This is not an a>empt to erase or shame women and their body fluids by way of products with sweetly scented ointments and pink packaging. It is a celebration of many monthly encounters with these cotton forms.
For more information, visit www.wideningthecycle.com. For questions, please email the curator and exhibit planner, Jen Lewis, at info [at] wideningthecycle [dot] com.