13 July 2009

Our Bodies, Our Art: Vanessa Tiegs

In the series Menstrala Vanessa Tiegs uses her menstrual blood to create a visual journal. I love that she collects it and uses it to paint paintings- gorgeous, expressive paintings- rather than hide it away as soon as possible.

Menstruation isn't often celebrated in our culture. A lot of women find it uncomfortable, painful and inconvenient, especially if they have endometriosis or any other number of medical conditions that make it especially difficult and painful, but a lot of that has to do with the revulsion other people feel over this process. Blood is so often associated with death and vaginas... yeah, they're disgusting and easy to shame.

I have to confess that I'm one of those annoying hippy-dippy, goddess worshiping women who really likes menstruation. Like... really likes it. I'm not sure if this is partly thanks to my stubborn inner (ha!) feminist, but honestly I've always sort of liked it, except for the first couple of years during which I either didn't think about it or wrung my hands over how the fuck to deal with it in various situations. There's somethings comforting about it for me... that's not a very good description I know, I've never really thought about why I feel the way I do, maybe I'll have to unpack it in another post. Until then, I'd love to hear your relationship to our favourite communist, Aunt Flow. (Especially if you have awesome period euphemisms).

ETA: I just noticed on a tab right next to this one I have a brilliant post titled Our Bodies, Our Neuroses by Pilgrim Soul at Pursuit of Harpyness. Ummm... thanks for the title inspiration PS! What can I say, the post was just so great I forgot all about the title as I read it!


  1. The day that something within me clicked with a realisation that my girlfriend is my true partner (you know, apart from her being the most wonderful thing ever created) was when I heard her mention her period to me in plain, comfortable, adult terms.

    Sure, one's period doesn't regularly pop up in conversation, so there's not often a need to say anything but it surprised me how much my previous girlfriends specifically went out of their way to avoid referring to it in any way; as if I didn't know it existed and would shatter upon discovering that blood exits their bodies at certain times.

    The words they used for it (if any) were never endearing pet names, they were always awkward euphemisms that a twelve year old might use to whisper something shameful or dirty. Like a child calling their genitals a "no no". What? We're both adults. I know what a period is, how it works and what it does. Just say it, you won't kill me.

    My current girlfriend mentioned that she wasn't feeling well, so I asked if she was okay and if I could get anything to help. She replied with, "No, it's fine, thanks. It's just my period."

    Bam! True love. I love how comfortable she was about it because it suggested she was comfortable with herself and didn't feel that she needed to be embarrassed about anything.

    I'll admit, I never really considered the idea of artwork made with menstrual blood. I've just never regarded blood with much serious thought - it's simply a red fluid in the body. I do like the symbolism its use could have, though, now that I think about it and the positive (and powerful) statement being made in the artwork.

    I could create images using my semen but, really, I don't actually align my personality with any particular sense of masculinity and painting with semen would just scream of "macho bullshit for the sake of it" for me. I also much prefer to stick with paints for the full palette of colours. I am glad, however, that Vanessa has done what she's doing. It's a great step forward for the world of Art as a whole, not just for femininity.

  2. I think the more conversations we have about menstruation the less stigmatised it will become, whether they be conversations with partners, friends, family or larger conversations though art. So keep on talking!

    And as soon as you said semen art I got curious and found this. I think it makes an interesting comparison, especially the way the different artists talk about their aims. The semen art is framed as (self-)portraiture, reflecting societal ideas of active male sexuality, while the menstrual art is seen as a journaling process, reflecting societal ideas of female fertility as something our of our control.


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