Art of Woman


One artist who exhibited during the PlanEx10 Art and Craft Show was so impressed with my photo of her, she sent me this email;

"Dear Margaret,

I was very impressed with the photos you took at PLAN on Sunday last and would be very grateful for a photo of Tricia and me with the certificate.  Usually I look dreadful in photos, to the point of embarrassment, but yours made me look more normal.

Best wishes,

PlanEx10 Art and Craft Show

Every year, for the last ten years, Canberra Friends of Plan have hosted an Art and Craft Show to raise funds for a development project. This year the money raised by PlanEx10 is going to projects to improve access to clean water and sanitation for schools and the community the Kisarawe District, Tanzania.

Canberra Friends of Plan wish to thank Bob McMullan MP for opening the PlanEx10 Art and Craft Show in Canberra on Friday 27th November. I took some photos of Bob McMullan, one is posted on his website.

Bob McMullan MP is the Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance and Member for Fraser. He is also a long term supporter of Plan International. He opened the first Plan show ten years ago and has maintained an active interest over the years. His opening address covered many issues including access to clean water and sanitation. These issues affect girls and women more directly than boys and men. In many parts of the world, including Tanzania, girls and women have the responsibility of obtaining the daily water for the household. This may require walking many kilometres or queuing for hours at a village well or pump. Improving access to clean water and sanitation has obvious health benefits. It also frees women from hours of drudgery, giving them time to learn skills, improve farming or develop businesses.

Bob McMullan also promoted the book "Because I am a Girl" which you can download from Plan's website:

He described how his own daughter’s life has been influenced by sponsoring a girl of similar age. His daughter noticed some similar interests and she saw the common humanity of girls the world over. His daughter also noticed the extra work load and pressures that poverty places on girls in developing countries.

This year was the best show ever with the most number of paintings sold, the highest value of craft sold and a great number of visitors.

Over the years, the Plan Art and Craft Show has supported local and emerging artists some of whom now exhibit regularly. The quality and professionalism of the artists was impressive. I exhibited three images; "Angel of Life and Death", "Sleeping Beauty" and "Red Riding Hood".

Below are photos I took at the opening.

Bob McMullan and Tricia Frake

PlanEx10 Art and Craft Show 2009

I exhibited three images; "Angel of Life and Death", "Sleeping Beauty" and "Red Riding Hood"

Naked Flames - Escape ArtFest 2009

This spring has been unusually cold. It was clear that the number of visitors to Escape ArtFest were down on previous years. Even some of the hotels had “Vacancy” signs. Despite this, Naked Flames was well received and the opening was well attended.

Again there was an interesting variety of arts - textiles, sculpture, paintings and photographs.

The theme of Naked Flames was articulated in various ways. Jodi Stewart had passionate lovers embracing in private to contrast with Barbie Robinson's public kiss in Paris. Pauline Mager's photographs of women were imaginative fantasies that contrasted with Malcolm Smith's more direct, sharply articulated and carefully constructed style. Ian Baird had a candid photograph of a group of revellers enjoying an evening show. Richard Lamond and Paul Haslam created amazing flame sculpture with wood and metal that reminded me of the destruction of forests, yet it had a symmetry and grace that reminded me of a Lotus blossom. Alan Baptist's skill with drawing was a delight to behold. His work is amazingly detailed. Marie Lund showed the secret love of bees deep within flowers.

There were many other interesting artists at this well received show.

Here I am with two of my images at the opening.

House sale photos

I was asked to photograph a home that is for sale. Of course, my photos need to show the home looking good and inviting. The pictures show the different rooms and living spaces and the garden. With care I was able to show some of the outlook through the windows.

The vendor was pleased with my
photos, and gave me a bunch of flowers and a bottle of wine as a Thank You!

Tamara - The Centrury Project

Frank Cordelle has kindly given me permission to show a photo from The Century Project that relates to my theme. All of the women who pose for Frank Cordelle choose their own setting. Tamara chose to express this part of her life in this way without any distractions. Frank’s high view-point makes her look smaller and gives her some vulnerability, yet her direct look shows strength, dignity and is completely devoid of shame. Tamara’s poem is beautiful and expresses heart aspects of menstruation that many women feel but do not know how to express. Thank you for your boldness Tamara.

Menstruation is a significant part of most women’s lives and our society tries to ignore it. There are few places where a woman can express how she feels about her periods. This site is one place where women’s expression is welcome. Send me your ideas, images, favourite sites, favourite books and I will post your comments, with your permission, of course.

The photo and poem below was published in the book: "Bodies and Souls: The Century Project" copyright © 2009 Frank Cordelle.

“The moon,
like a prospective grandmother,
keeps time.

In an empty womb,
I create space
for process.

Pale yolk
runs from me,
malnourished and alone.

All that is mine
in grief

rich pulp,
the ripe fruit
of my most internal decomposition.

It gathers like angry water

beating blood

tender walls,
crashing comfort,
painfully pulsing

out of me.

It flows wide
spilling, furiously,
onto the altar of my soul,

to which I bow in need of You
in body,
in blood.”


ABC Science - Reflections on the Moon Photo Competition

ABC Science has awarded my photo, “Rise and Fall”, a Highly Commended in the Winter Science competition “Reflections on the Moon”. It is 06 in the series.

The Moon is a long way away by human standards, but it has a profound influence on life and the ocean especially. Many fish breed in estuaries created by the rise and fall of the tides. There are many species that live on rocky shores that rely on the renewal of the tidal waters, animals such as oysters, sea anemones, sea urchins, starfish, cockles, crabs, fish fry, and numerous sea snails and sea weeds such as mermaid’s necklaces, kelp, sea lettuce.
The tides affect erosion of coasts and the shape of beaches. If a storm, heavy rain and a high tide happen together, a beach can be completely destroyed or a lagoon breached.

The Moon has a powerful influence on us all.

The Century Project

Recently, during research for my art, I saw the very powerful photography of Frank Cordelle.

Frank Cordelle has created a photography exhibition called “The Century Project”. He has photographed girls and women from birth to 98 years of age. These are women who have faced struggles and problems with their bodies. Their stories, in their own words, accompany the photographs. Some of the stories are confronting, some are angry, some are sad, some are joyful, some are a triumph. All of the stories are intimate person experiences.

Frank has photographed the women in the nude to express their vulnerability and their humanity. Cloths can enhance some parts of the body and hide parts of the body we find difficult for various reasons. Cloths express culture, social status, occupation and wealth. These nude images cut through much cultural clutter and gets past assumptions and prejudices to see the real woman underneath. Sometimes clothes hide things so well that health issues are not address properly and the woman does not even know what is within the normal range for a female for her age.

This project is extremely important. Even healthy women struggle with body image because the media display so many ‘perfect’ images of women’s bodies all around us. When women have health and other body image problems, they can feel that they are inferior somehow. The shame some women feel about their bodies can restrict and limit their lives. For example, many women limit their participation in sports, especially swimming. These limitations are unnecessary, often inconvenient and in some cases even harmful.

The Century Project gives women dignity and a voice. It has changed the lives of some women who have felt alone, disregarded, afraid and ashamed of their struggles. This project has given many women the courage to treat their bodies with respect and inspired some women to get the medical care they deserve.

The Century Project is beautiful and has been shown in 63 colleges around the USA and has been viewed by thousands of people.

You can obtain your own personal copy of the exhibition in a book called “Bodies and Souls”.

Mamuli Gift

I recently met a lovely woman from Sumba, Indonesia. She was visiting Canberra for a short time. We discussed many interesting topics and we both discussed gender issues in our respective cultures. My soul was warmed by someone from another culture who was able to be frank and honest with me about sensitive issues.

She saw my art and encouraged me to continue exploring the meaning of womanhood and menstruation in many cultures. It was moving that my images spoke to her so strongly despite our different backgrounds.

When she left, she gave me a Mamuli pendant as a memory of our connection. I told her I will wear it to the opening of “Naked Flames” exhibition. Mamuli are symbolic representations of the vagina and are made with precious metal. They are treasured within families and are passed from mother to daughter as an heirloom or bride gift.

I will treasure this Mamuli. Thank you my friend from Sumba.

Naked Flames

You are all welcome to come to the opening of “Naked Flames” as part of Escape ArtFest 2009. This is a group art show held from Saturday 3rd to Sunday 11th October 2009.

Hibiscus Gallery
15 Wallaroy Drive
Burrill Lake NSW

Opening celebration, 4:00-6:00pm Saturday 3rd October, Hibiscus Gallery.

I have been working on a few photographs that show my interpretation of Naked Flames. These are new photographs, not seen before, cheeky, unusual and a bit provocative. One of my images has been chosen to publicise the show on the official ArtFest website. Just click on the Naked Flames tab.

Body Painting

Medical students have always had difficulty studying anatomy using flat book images. There is a big difference between a flat page and the real living body. The way the organs and muscles fit together, the three dimensional curves, the scale and size and variety of body types. Here is a novel way to bring the body to life and teach anatomy. See this article from Australia’s ABC
Body Painting Helps Anatomy Lessons.

I like the way the body is used as a canvass. It gives the illusion that the skin is transparent. This is humanity in the raw and shows that we are all the same under our skins. There is no racism, no preconceptions. In a way this art is confronting how we experience our bodies and shows us all as vulnerable.

So is this Art? Should the model be nude? Personally, I think the model should be nude as a logical continuation of the painting. The underpants do not add to the learning at all and detract from the effect, they look contrived. The effect reminds me of Damien Hirst, “The Virgin Mother”. I think underpants would look silly on her too and even runs the risk of changing her from a body to a sex object.

However, this body painting exercise looks like a great learning experience. I’m sure it is fun to do also. Perhaps I should learn anatomy!

Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby

At the Wharenui
Download a 6meg .mov clip.

Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby, is a humorous, bold and irreverent TV programme from New Zealand about a fictional boys high school starring David McPhail. Tepapawai Boys High is threatened with closure and the school attempts a variety of activities and avoidance tactics to avert the inevitable. Mr Gormsby is an ‘old school’ style teacher with a plethora of politically incorrect attitudes and behaviours that highlight the absurdities of life. The students are rambunctious and defiant about learning almost to the point of being unteachable, but they do not want the school to close either. The result is a comedy that makes many social comments on education and human frailties, as the students and teachers co-operate to fight a common enemy, the Education Review Office (ERO).

Mr Gormsby with the Education Review Officer

In Series 2, episode 6 titled “An Inspector Calls” tackles the often avoided topic of menstruation. Mr Gormsby uses implied menstrual customs to avert the ERO inspector from inspecting a
wharenui, a traditional Maori meeting house. He blurts out a string of menstrual euphemisms and confronts the ERO inspector. The fear is that a menstruating woman would reduce the sacred power of the carvings in the wharenui. There is often a relationship between fear and respect, for example, a strict and disciplined teacher often has the respect of the students. The mystic power of a woman to create life engenders both fear and respect and must be treated carefully. Part of the insult for the ERO inspector is that a woman’s menstrual status is considered a personal and private matter in western culture, irrelevant to her ability to perform her duties.

Many traditional cultures had restrictive and sacred customs associated with menstruation. Although Mr Gormsby’s aim is stalling the ERO inspector, there is evidence that menstruation required specific treatment in traditional Maori society. This is an article describing some menstrual customs in Australia and New Zealand,
New Zealand Institute, 1904. Full article can be found in the National Library of New Zealand.

A more modern article gives a Maori interpretation of
celestial bodies and describes the moon in female symbology. Some traditional cultures required women to have exclusion in separate huts, during their menstruation. One example is of Ethiopian Jews who settled in Israel Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. This exclusion allows women space and privacy under the protection of purity rites. In highly patriarchal societies, this totally female space was potentially a refreshment, a time out for women.

Photo - Margaret Kalms

Please, do not get the impression that Maori culture is stuck in the past. Wharenui are a cultural focus for Maori life both past and present. A descriptive background and short history of wharenui is found in this
Education Resource, used with kind permission from Wellington City Gallery, Te Whare Toi. This resource includes definitions of many Maori sacred words and explains how symbols of today’s modern world view are incorporated into contemporary Maori ideas.

Modern art is revitalising the wharenui with new building techniques, technology and modern symbolism. Here is a wonderful modern rendition of a wharenui by a modern fractal artist,
Rerewhakaaitu, which includes a description of the meaning of wharenui that is well worth reading. The Chrysalis Seed Trust magazine which explores the intersection of art and faith, describes the potential for Maori tradition to be integrated with the Christian faith in meeting houses. Many wharenui have become churches.

This integration of indigenous culture with mainstream (western) culture has not happened to the same extent in Australia. Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby is an amazing blend of the issues of indigenous culture and spirituality with mainstream and can teach us all to look life directly in the eye and face many difficult issues with courage and bold, good humour.