Art of Woman

Happy New Year!!

May you all have the energy, time and tools to achieve your goals and plans. May you enjoy the journey while you are working towards these goals.

It takes courage to keep aiming towards any goal in the face of uncertainty and difficulties and our world has many difficulties. Perseverance, however, really does pay off. Often people around you begin to help when they can see you are actively aiming for a goal, even when there have been a few interruptions. Gratefully accept whatever help fits in with your goals.

So all you people with New Year's Resolutions, I say

"Go for it!"

I aim to do more woman art photography this year.

Art Auction

Exciting news!

Women's Centre for Health Matters Inc (WCHM) is hosting a silent auction of donated art from Calendar Girls. Calendar Girls was a promotional 2007 calendar for WCHM. 14 of the 150 entries were published in the calendar including one of my photos for January. Many of the participating artists have donated their work to WCHM for a silent auction. Money raised will go towards women's health programs at the centre.

Here is a chance to buy up to four of my photos at a discount price. You will be helping women's health.

Thursday 1 November 2007, 5:30pm in Barton, Canberra, ACT.

If you are interested in attending contact WCHM for venue on 6290 2166.

See an
interview with the coordinator, Adrienne Rutherford on Channel vision.

Human Papillomavirus vaccine and virginity pledges

Last week in "The Canberra Times" there was an article about mothers refusing to give their daughters the Human Papillomavirus vaccine. The vaccine protects against Human Papillomavirus that causes cervical cancer. Approximately 20% of mothers believed that the vaccine would induce their daughters to become promiscuous. It is very sad that even in this age of high technology and scientific advances, 20% of the population confuses health with morals.

Surveys of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancy rates done on young people who vowed abstinence interestingly show they have similar instances of sexually transmitted diseases as the control group who did not vow abstinence. The explanation was that teens vowing abstinence may have been practicing manual, oral or anal sex in order to remain technically virgin, but were not practicing safe sex. These other sexual activities can transmit sexual diseases.

Vaccinations are an insurance to protect against a bad event happening. To suggest that vaccines will induce bad behaviour is like saying that people who receive a Tetanus vaccine will go and hammer a rusty nail into their foot! NO. But if they accidently tread on a rusty nail, they are protected from Tetanus. It is a health issue.

It is also like seat belts in a car. Seat belts have been compulsory in Australia for decades. We wear them to protect ourselves in the event of an accident. People drive because they want to go somewhere. There is no evidence that people drive more often or become worse drivers in cars with seat belts. It is a safety issue.

Most people including teens participate in sexual activities because they are in a relationship. They do not think about their health status at the height of passion. Therefore any safe sex practices, including vaccinations, will reduce their exposure to harm. Vaccinations and safe sex practices are health issues.

Virginity pledges and abstinence promotion is a good thing and aims to empower teens to responsible sexual relationships. Problems arise when abstinence promotion comes without education on sexual health, disease protection and contraception. We all need sexual health because we all have sex organs.

Body Language

What a wonderful weekend! The opening of Body Language exhibition, part of Escape ArtFest 2007, was attended by many of the participating artists along with friends and supporters. An exciting atmosphere developed as artists discussed their various works and interpretations of 'Body Language'.

Photo copyright Margaret Kalms

The works were varied in size, media and style from the exquisite cuttlefish bone carvings of Kylie Douglass to a large bold collage by Thea Wooten. Faith traditions were represented including Julie Williams' reclining Buddah and Lindy Delain's blending of the human elements with symbols of the land. Emotions were shown by Marjo Jones' detailed figurines and Ken Ball's soft focus photographs.

The variety of styles was inspiring. Together they made a very powerful statement about the diversity of our bodies and how we give them meaning. Some of the works were confronting and bold in addressing difficult issues such as bondage and menstruation. All of the works were beautiful.

It was an honour to be a part of the celebrations. A big THANK YOU to our hosts Chris and Wanda Bridgland whose work preparing and promoting the exhibition was rewarded with a stunning opening.

The exhibition runs until October 6th 2007 at Hibiscus Gallery, 16 Wallaroy Drive, Burrill Lake, NSW.

Enhancing Men

Today I cleaned out the email 'In box' on my computer. There was a lot of junk mail. Normally I just select them all and delete them. This time I paused a moment to ponder...

A couple of weeks ago, 14/08/2007, I wrote about breast implants and how sad it is that some women feel they have to have surgery on their bodies in order to be beautiful.

This week I am looking at the male equivalent in all those junk emails. So many of them were telling me how to enlarge my penis!
Again it is sad and exploitative to prey on men's insecurities about their bodies. These junk emails extract money for medicines and procedures that are not always properly tested and regulated.

For men to risk surgery or other manipulations of their most delicate of organs is a tragedy and a huge risk. There must be cases where things go wrong, where infection sets in or there is scaring or other complications. It is sad that people of either sex would cut their bodies and risk injury, pain and complications, in order to meet imagined standards of body shape. A truly loving intimate relationship will accept the unique characteristics of each other's bodies. A truly loving relationship does not need surgery to enhance it.

Total Eclipse of the Moon

Wow! What an amazing night! I just saw a total eclipse of the moon and the moon turned blood red!

I have used a red moon as a symbolic image for monthly periods. Tonight I saw a real blood moon. It was fantastic and the colours were much more subtle than my artistic moon. So there really is such a thing as a blood red moon.

It still reminds me of women's periods, the passing months and the cycling blood.

The earth's shadow passed across the face of the full moon. It was dark and the full moon changed from white to blood red. It was very exciting to watch. See my new photo on the gallery page.

Escape ArtFest "Body Language" exhibition

Escape ArtFest 2007 is an exciting festival of events being hosted in the Ulludulla region of NSW south coast, Australia. For 16 days a celebration of artistic talent will flourish in this normally quiet region. There will be a range of events, workshops, music, film and video, literature, art walks, sculpture and exhibitions and even prizes! Check the Artfest calendar.

I am excited about entering an exhibition called "Body Language" being held at the Hibiscus Gallery, 15 Wallaroy Drive Burrill Lake, from 22 September to 6 October 2007, open daily 10am to 5pm. There many very talented artists participating in this exhibition. Their varied contributions will make "Body Language" an exciting event.

Currently I am preparing six photos for this exhibition. Five of these photos are new and have not been shown anywhere else. They are not posted on this site.

Three of my photos are the sub-theme of "country girl", a light-hearted view of women in country life. The other three photos are the sub-theme of "veil", a look at how a woman shows or hides her body and how that covering affects her identity.

I invite you all to come to the Hibiscus Gallery to see this exhibition and meet me at the opening. Spend the weekend, or a week or more, and enjoy the exciting events happening during ArtFest .

Breast Implants

Today "The Canberra Times" warns its readers about loans for breast implants. Australians are servicing record debt yet more women want to add to their debt with cosmetic surgery. It is very sad to me that some women feel they have to place foreign substances inside their bodies in order to feel beautiful. Are these women succumbing to pressure from men? Many men make a big fuss about breasts. It is potentially tragic to put the family into debt for something that could scar and harm the woman or worse.

Surgery always carries risks. General anaesthesia involves risks. Placing any foreign objects into the body involves risk, and should be done with extreme caution and the best of medical care. Most breast implants are done for fashion or "body image" enhancement. Personally, I do not think fashion is something worth the risk of scaring or infection. There are cases of implants leaking, slipping, and moving within the body. These problems then require the woman to undergo further invasive surgery, endure considerable pain, sometimes with extended time off work and can result in large unsightly scars.

I would much prefer women to gain self esteem by the wonderful things they do, not by the way they look. I prefer my friends and colleagues to appreciate my good work and interesting personality and not judge me by the size of my breasts!!

Brat Camp and the Biology of the vagina

Tonight I watched "Brat Camp" on ABC TV. It is about a bunch of wayward children from Britain being sent to "Turn About Ranch" in Utah in USA. "Turn About" ranch is a working cattle ranch. It is also a rehabilitation centre for teens who have had problems socialising, are on drugs or alcohol, are defiant or in trouble with crime. The teens do a lot of physical work and are given responsibilities as part of their rehabilitation. If they misbehave they are punished. If they do good work and get along with staff and peers, they are rewarded.

During tonight's episode, the cows needed to be checked for pregnancy. The girls needed to don a glove and push their arm up the vagina of a cow! They had mixed reactions but they did it anyway. The commentator however, did not mention the word "vagina". Instead the commentator spoke about the girls putting their arms up "the backside" of the cow!

Now a fully working ranch would need accurate information on the state of pregnancy of the cows. Placing an arm up the cow's backside will not give an accurate reading of pregnancy! There is an enormous difference between a backside and a vagina. One is used for expelling waste, the other is used for brining new life into the world.

I found it most surprising that the commentator seemed coy on this point. At other times during the program various expletives were used without any problem. Yet the commentator could not say "vagina", a plain, unemotional, biologically accurate term. Instead he said the biologically wrong "backside". Why is that? Was he embarrassed by a cow's vagina? Is it more acceptable to swear than to mention female genitals?


Did anything bad happen to you when you read the word vagina?

You may prefer the Sanskrit word "YONI" which means "divine passage" or "place of birth". It implies a respect and sacredness to the special female place. Vagina is a much more clinical word, meaning "sheath". I think vagina is fine for cows, I prefer yoni for women though.

Older age sexuality

In "The Canberra Times" today, page B5, Virginia Haussegger wrote an article about older women showing cleavages - or not. She makes the observation that older women do not usually show their cleavages. When they do, they are often criticised. It seems women over 40 are not supposed to be sexy!

Virginia Haussagger links women's display of sexual power as a measure of her confidence. That is until she becomes about 40. Why should society be afraid and affronted with female sexuality when that female is past her fertility? What is so threatening about older female sexual power?

Many older women seem to be happy to become immersed in their grandchildren or enjoying a quiet life on their own. However, there are also a significant number of older women (and men) who do not fit this mold and simply refuse to give up their sexuality simply because they are considered by others to be too old.

Take my mother for example. She fell in love at 70 and got married at 71! Yes married. A full wedding. Bride's maids, flower girl, minister, lots of guests and yummy food. The works. Their marriage is an obviously affectionate one and it has given both of them a whole new lease of life. They still hug and enjoy each other's company more than ten years on. I congratulate them.

My family is not the only example of older age sexuality. "The Canberra Times" today, on page B11 under "Adult services" there is an advertisement, "GROANING GRANNY Sixty+." Then a mobile phone number and rates charged.

I wonder what she talks about!!!! I'm glad that she is bold enough to be sexy in her sixties and even advertise the fact! Many older folk have good health and feel just like the rest of us inside. It is terrible loss that older sexuality is so ignored. Many aged care homes do not have double beds for example, or even double rooms. Yet human touch and contact, especially hugs are very soothing and healing. The comfort of a loved and special person can literally mean the difference between life and death when older people are suffering isolation and stress. I would like to encourage any loving relationship, no matter how old the participants are.

Men and women equality

On a recent trip to New Zealand, I read the Dominion Post newspaper. 19 July, had a story on its front page about a sexist backlash. New Zealand has a woman Prime Minister and Chief Justice. This gives the impression that women are equal to men right up to the top levels of society. Unfortunately recent figures show that women's pay parity has lost ground in recent years. More disturbing is the figure that shows an increase in domestic violence and violence against women by men.

What does this mean? Have women lost power and some men are taking advantage of that? Are some men angry with women for making progress and desiring parity with them? Do some men feel that the only way they will have a woman as a companion is by exerting power over her?

Surely relationships are more rewarding when both the man and woman know they are both happy to be in the relationship, that both parties are willingly staying and enjoying the relationship. A true friendship and meeting of minds, spirit, and emotions creates an intimacy that is extremely rewarding for both the man and woman. A bond built on trust, love and free will is more joyous than one built on coercion and power struggles.

It would be good if men could back off on the domination and power games with women. Women also could put more effort into articulating their affection and appreciation of their favourite man, noticing the efforts he does and appreciating the resources that he shares.

Men and women have the potential to bring out the best in each other. Unfortunately, when fear of pain or rejection sets in, then men and women can hurt each other very badly indeed. Both men and women loose out on the potential joys of the partnership.

Work relationships are not the same as personal relationships. And women, all people, deserve equal pay for equal work. Pay parity is a justice issue. To pay any group in society less than any other for the same work, is exploitation. In Australia, the jobs where women tend to dominate, also tend to have lower pay structures. Most notable is Motherhood, where there is no pay at all for many women, and, for many women, no maternity leave, so no security. A close second lowest is baby-sitting, then child care workers. Yet rearing the next generation of children is one of the most responsible tasks that builds a strong and caring society.

There is still plenty of work to do to before women truly have equal opportunity within the workplace or their careers.

Hero rescues girl

Over the weekend, I hired a DVD, "Howl's castle". It is a fun animated fantasy. I found the meeting between Sofi and Howl interesting.

A summary of the plot of Howl’s Moving Castle.

Sofi had gone for a walk and a couple of soldiers were harassing her. She repeatedly said "No" to them but they persisted in harassing her. Howl appeared and spirited her off out of danger.

I know this incident is not the main plot of the story, but the theme of a hero rescuing a damsel in distress in common in mythology. In this case the men did not accept "No" from Sofi. They did not stop harassing Sofi until a stronger man, with magic no less! came and rescued her!

What does this incident teach our young girls? That men do not accept a "No" from them? That whatever they say, their demands will be ignored? That they are not safe unless with a boyfriend to defend them? That a single woman has no reason to refuse male company? That a woman can expect to be harassed if she goes out unaccompanied?

When Howl spirited Sofi off, he did not ask her where she wanted to go or what she wanted to do, he simply assumed that she would go with him. How much choice did Sofi really have during this incident? She was required to trust a complete stranger. And pretty strange and magical he was too!! I prefer to teach my children to be wary and skeptical of strangers who want to spirit them off.

Maybe I am taking this all way too seriously, but myths do affect the way we interpret the world and real people's actions. Many men want to be heros for their wives and girlfriends and that is a noble thing. Many women want their husbands and boyfriends to support their causes, and they should be appreciative of what men do for them. But does a hero require that women have no say in what happens to them?

Abandoned baby

This week a baby was abandoned in a Melbourne hospital in Australia. One of our newspapers criticised the mother and vilified her for giving up her baby. Jeff Kennett, from Beyond Blue, a depression help organisation, was totally outraged by these comments. See article in The Age.He made the point that a person must be very desperate, depressed, afraid and under extreme stress to abandon a baby. The mother needs our sympathy and practical help. She may need medical treatment. Certainly she will not claim the child now. There is an assumption that it was the mother who abandoned the baby. This assumption may be wrong. Where is the father??? Did any other relatives or friends know about the baby? No-one lives in isolation. People close to the mother did not reassure her that she could cope with parenting a child. Even going through the legal process of adoption was too much for her. Perhaps she hid the pregnancy, we do not know. We know nothing about the mother's circumstances. She may be in grief from loosing her baby even if giving the child up is the best decision. I wish I could restore her joy and help her to heal.

Mother's Day

"The Virgin Mother", by Damien Hirst.

I'm not sure why Damien Hirst called his sculpture, "The Virgin Mother". Women cannot become a mother when a virgin. Sunday 13th May was Mother's Day in Australia. Mother's Day is a time for remembering all the special things our mothers have done for us. It is a time of families getting together Read More...

More photographs

I have been busy photographing again. See the new photos posted on the gallery page. A special "Thank you" to the management and staff of Lake Jindabyne Hotel who gave me excellent Read More...

Sculptor, Tanya Menzies

"Beaded Nude"

Introducing Tanya Menzies, a sculptor who grew up in country Australia. She has a degree in Graphic Arts from Charles Sturt University. She has worked in the photographic industry and edited and designed the newsletter for Wagga Wagga Art Society.

She has created shimmering sculptures out of wire mesh, decorated with beads that sparkle like jewels. She is inspired by the female form and ideas of motherhood. Tanya was raised on a farm near Ardlethan. Born an artist, she was often in trouble for stealing pieces out of her father's shed to make fanciful mobiles, wind chimes, sculptures and anything else artistic she could dream up. After finishing school Tanya completed a BA in Graphic Design at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. In the course of her studies she worked on the student newspaper and as a freelance graphic designer. After graduating Tanya worked for a number of years in the photographic industry, restoring and manipulating photographic images. She also worked with the Wagga Wagga Art Society as their newsletter editor and in-house designer.

Along with her husband, Tanya has now returned to the land and the life she loves most. With a son and daughter aged five and three respectively, and a revitalising place to call home, life has come full circle. Tanya is looking forward to the next phase with all the creativity, passion and love she can muster.

She describes her work:

Although my interest ebbs and flows from one artistic venture to the next, I have been held for some time by the endless aesthetic qualities and possibilities of wire and wire mesh. More recently, the magic of beads has come into play. My preference for these materials has combined with my recent life experiences in the current body of work.

Essentially, the work is an exploration of womanly creation - what it is to create a new life, give birth and become a mother. There is no doubt that the experience can be emotionally and physically overwhelming, but it is also magic in its purest form. The work is intended to reflect this. It is unapologetically feminine and celebrates an experience that lives with a woman forever.

Phoenix Prize for Spiritual Art 2007

Last night was the opening of the Phoenix Prize for Spiritual Art. There were 170 entries and the short listed ones are on exhibition at ANU School of Art Gallery from 5-28 April. It was my honour to photograph my friend, Pete Smith's entry. Gordon Bull, head ANU School of Art, announced last night that Pete Smith has won first prize!!

Pete Smith (left) with Gordon Bull (right) and "Transfiguration"

Getting dressed

My model rung me to apologise for being late because she needed to shave her legs. She arrived and we did some interesting work. The incident reminded me of a book I have been reading, "Dirt, Undress and Difference - critical perspectives on the body's surface" Adeline Masquelier ed, Indiana University Press 2005.

There is a description of a strip dancer preparing for work. It goes into detail for three pages (96-98). This makes me think about the whole notion of what is dressed and what is undressed and which bits to show and which bits to hide. Certainly the dancer took great care in presenting her body in a particular way. She took longer than most people to get 'dressed' for work!
We all have the right to present our bodies the way we choose.

Sexual health and christianity part 2

The entry I wrote yesterday was about a guest speaker that visited my church. The usual preaching at my church allows much more room for individual thought and for God to guide and direct. The sermons emphasise christian morality and integrity..........

The Bible is quoted and Jesus' actions are discussed. There is a special time during each service after the sermon/message where the congregation is invited to think about the issues and how God is speaking to us individually. We even have special message cards that people can fill in if they want to discuss things further with the pastors or elders. So the church I attend does not demand specific actions. It offers direction and guidance. This approach allows each of us to have a personal and dynamic relationship with God. We are able to respond to God individually.

Our church does support sexual health along with all types of healthy living. For example; three of our women supported a calendar that raised funds for Women's Centre for Health Matters. Many of our missionaries support sexual health and hygiene, helping mothers and babies, and supporting several homes for children with AIDS/HIV. Of course, safe sex practices will reduce the need for orphanages.

Sexual health and Christianity

Yesterday at church a guest speaker described 'safe sex' as an encouragement for promiscuity!! This is an outrage!! Safe sex is a health issue. People can become very ill and die from lack of knowledge in this area. Lack of knowledge also leads to further transmission and even more people suffering. To have knowledge that can protect against deadly diseases and to withhold that knowledge is morally irresponsible. Those people are in part responsible for any subsequent suffering or death.

We all know that washing hands reduces transmission of diarrhoea. If we recommend the washing of hands, does that make people more prone to gluttony or obesity because now they can eat without getting sick??? Of course not!!

If we recommend hand washing then we will have a healthier community.

If we recommend safe sex then we will have a healthier community.

What is more important, a condom or a person's life? What is more important, a vaccine or a person's life? What is more important, a contraception or a person's life? I chose a healthy life!

I am glad the Australian government is promoting the vaccination of girls and young women under 26 against human papillomavirus which causes cervical cancer. See link for more info, HPV

We all need sexual health because we all have sex organs.

Male menstruation

New Scientist magazine, 9 December 2006, page 16, has a short article about males having a version of the menstrual cycle! How amazing is that! It talks about males having fluctuating fertility and sperm production. I wonder if further research will show that many species have these fluctuations. Certainly many species have a specific fertile 'season'. The range of sexual and reproductive strategies in the natural world amaze me.

New Endometriosos clinic in Canberra

Great news! The Canberra Times has a short note about a new Endometriosis Clinic opening in Canberra, Australia. This will improve the health and reduce suffering for many women. Women of all reproductive ages can have this debilitating and often painful condition. It can reduce fertility and certainly affects a woman's productivity. Now women can get treatment more easily in Canberra.

Story is written up in IBN news