Art of Woman

Christmas Greetings

Christmas is a time to give all people on earth good wishes and encouraging thoughts.

Again we consider the Christ child, the incarnation of God. In this child we see the wonder of God’s creativity and compassion combined. We see God becoming human, experiencing all the joys, excitement and wonder of a human body as well as the irritations, limitations, frustrations, pain and emotions of living in a physical body. This experience sanctifies all our bodies. God truly knows what it is like to be us! And God has compassion for our troubles and experiences.

God coming to earth as a baby makes parenthood a sacred calling. Unfortunately, despite a rhetoric of equality, mothers still do most of the organising and physical work of child rearing. This results in fewer hours available for their careers, so mothers take a career hit when they have children. Employers say they support families while at the same time implying that reduced hours means a lack of commitment.
(http://www.bnet.com/blog/business-strategy/women-still-pay-a-big-price-for-motherhood/981).

It is hard for mothers to feel respected when their careers crash or are blocked and the skills of mothering are disregarded in the workplace.

I am in awe of how wonderfully the human body is made. I aim to articulate the magnificent way that God made the human body through my art. The more I learn about the intricacies of how we are made the more I respect God’s creation and the more motivated I am to articulate that respect in my art. Looking forward to a productive year.

“You made all the delicate parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!” Psalm 139:13-14 Living Bible.

Christmas is also a time to re-connect with family and loved ones. We have time off work to celebrate Christmas and this gives us time to reflect on other aspects of life. It is not good to be tied exclusively to the working world and risk neglecting friends, family and other connections. It was a great joy to us that modern technology enabled us to see our son who is living overseas. May you all have enjoyable times with your friends and family over the holiday break.

Wishing you all the strength and resources to fulfil your aims and goals in the New Year.

"Reconciled Rejections" by Cheralyn Darcy

On the weekend, I was excited to be able to visit an exhibition by Cheralyn Darcy, “Reconciled Rejections”. She has an amazing range of skills which she uses to express her talent and vision. Her work is varied including sculptured bird figures, assemblage, collage and a human sized bower! This body of work was themed on birds and their interaction with humanity. The birds were made from found objects and were a combination of natural and human made materials. Most of the natural world has to adapt to human influences and incorporate human materials into their existence. Using found objects is good for the environment and brings new spiritual life to discarded objects. Our culture discards things too easily, without thinking of other uses and possibilities.

Cheralyn does not criticise our waste. Instead she transforms it and creates beauty.

The birds are appealing to us to think of them within all our clutter. The Galah is holding it’s egg, but it was broken, exposing the inside. Unexpectedly, there was no downy chick inside, instead there were clockwork cogs and mechanisms almost like the egg was a ticking time bomb! Is this how we have treated birds? Is this the consequence of modern living?

These sculptures provoke different thinking about bird and human relationships.



I am greatly honoured that Cheralyn will be exhibiting with me next year from 8-20 March at Polymorph gallery, Newtown.

Opening of "Belconnen Ways" exhibition

On Sunday, BeAN (Belconnen Artists’ Network) proudly opened its annual art exhibition, “Belconnen Ways”. It is held at the Church Gallery at Gold Creek in Canberra. Thirty works of 13 artists are on display, articulating their unique experiences of living in Belconnen. BeAN always produces a show with varied works and this year is no exception.

The Church Gallery is a small heritage cottage behind the George Harcourt Inn. It is surrounded by mature trees and lawns which create a peaceful setting.

As you come in the door, you are greeted by a mannequin wearing unique chic clothing made from a textile called Ozifelt, a blend of merino wool and silk. This fabric is soft to touch, light to wear and warm, yet does not feel too hot in summer. A perfect fabric to wear during changing seasons. These clothes are designed by Sue Berger.

Along the walls are photos by Jimalyn Lawless, Margaret Kalms, Pauline Mager and Nancy Hamilton. These photos show aspects of Belconnen in unexpected ways, some showing themes that are often overlooked. Paul Haslam and John Hamilton have thought provoking collages. Also included are painting digital art, drawing and work with fire.

I have four photos in this exhibition.

Overall the exhibition is an experience to treasure.



Download the catalogue.

Sex, Faith and Marriage, Sunday 22 August 2010

Last night on ABC TV Compass interviewed three couples from three faiths, Hindu, Muslim and Judaism. They were asked about their beliefs regarding sex.

The Jewish couple spoke about how menstruation impacts on their sex lives. Orthodox Jews do not have sex during a woman’s period, nor for seven days afterwards. The time of menstruation is significant in Jewish ritual and a woman learns that her body is sacred and that sex is sacred. The husband and wife do not sleep in the same bed during this time. Then, after 12 days without any contact with her husband the wife has a ritual bath called Mikvah and is blessed, cleansed and made ritually clean. She is then ready to return to the marriage bed and resume sexual relations. Often there is a sense of excitement as she returns home ready to greet her husband. Her desire has been rejuvenated.

There are many misconceptions surrounding Mikvah. It was wonderful to see how this ancient tradition is practiced in a modern society. Each women’s privacy was respected and hygiene was strictly controlled.
I loved the passionate way that the wife, Timmy described her experience of being in separate beds, “It makes you yearn to be with your partner.” Kalman describes the husband’s view, “That’s the time to rejuvenate. Because you are forced to instil a control, you are forced to draw close to each other emotionally, you talk to each other.” This periodic separation deepens the relationship!
I’m sure the monthly break in sexual demands is rejuvenating for both husband and wife. She is not pressured to be constantly available and he does not suffer as much rejection because the rejuvenation time is understood and he does not make needless advances.
Personally, I would find the 12 days without contact every month extremely difficult and I do not observe this practice. I do however take breaks on my own visiting friends and relatives and have done so throughout my marriage. When I return home from a break, we are excited to see each other, we are attentive to each other and our relationship is rejuvenated.
The Mikvah ritual is a refreshing contrast to today’s modern western culture which is over sexualised. Western culture puts a lot of sexual expectations on relationships. Men feel pressure to prove their manhood and women feel pressure to be constantly sexually attractive and to acquiesce to the lustful demands of their partners even when they feel no desire themselves.
One example of these attitudes is the book “365 nights: A Memoir of Intimacy” by Charla Muller, Berkley Publishing Group, 2008. ISBN: 9781741964240.

Charla Muller wanted to give her husband a memorable and significant gift for his 40th birthday. She decided to give him sex every night for one year, the “gift”.
It was an amazing effort. I agree that the “gift” was motivated by love for her husband, but it is also based on the assumption that a good wife is constantly sexually available.

This assumption makes a woman a sex object at the whim of a man’s lust even within marriage. This has the potential to become exploitative of women, meeting only the man’s needs without any consideration for the woman’s experience. Even Charla defines sex in terms of his ejaculation (P72). Unfortunately, many men loose respect for women once their lusts are satisfied. If the husband expects his wife to be constantly sexual availability then sex becomes the wife’s obligation and her refusal is taken as a rejection of his manhood. He may take any sexual rejection so badly that he becomes coercive or even violent as a result.

Charla admits that her husband felt rejected, writing, “I know you’re avoiding sex and it bums me out … I’m your husband for Pete’s sake, not some cheesy college guy looking to get lucky.” (P215) The assumption is that a wife should not refuse her husband.

Perhaps if Charla was permitted rejuvenation times, she would say yes more often. Instead, she puts in a marathon effort gives her body as a “gift”.

When a woman has no desire, sex becomes a chore, a performance or even a transaction. Charla tries to gloss over this aspect of her “gift” but it is clear that she has had enough during the last few weeks of the “gift”.

“Geez, do you think you could try a little bit more?” He said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
He sighed. “Could you pretend you’re interested in this? I mean could you woo me a bit?”
Try? Woo? What does he think I’ve been doing the last eleven months of my life?
(P234-235)

It is clear that her husband has continuing expectations. A husband with the expectation that a good wife is constantly sexual availability is generally not very appreciative.

What Charla has done may have been good for her marriage, but it is a potentially dangerous precedent to use as an example to emulate. It sets up unrealistic expectations of marriage in men because many women will not be able to achieve this amount of sexual availability due to a whole range of justifiable reasons.

There does seem to be a gulf between men’s lusts and women’s capacity. As Charla writes, “Brad will want sex and will resent having to ask for it. I will not want to have sex after two babies and fifty-four workhour weeks and will resent having to have it.” (P243)

Charla describes women getting Doctor’s certificates as a way of extending postpartum sexual abstinence. (P75) Surely a ritual time out is better than this deception?

Judaism gives sexuality a structure that honours the needs of both men and women. The Mikvah looks like a peaceful place where women can be refreshed and recover their energies and the 12 days of abstinence makes the husbands more appreciative of the physical and sexual side of marriage after the 12th day finally arrives!

You can read another review of 365 Nights here and two radio interviews by Amy Freese of Designher Living on WSRadio.com - 03 and 04.

"Period Piece" a success

My recent solo exhibition, “Period Piece” was a success. Many people came to the Huw Davies Gallery to see it. The photos generated some animated discussions about women’s bodies and about menstrual health. Many women were deeply touched to see images that articulate how they feel on the inside. There were even some men who had discussions with me and developed some understanding of the deep impact menstruation can have on a woman’s life. It was very encouraging to realise that my art photos had communicated sensitive issues so effectively.

During my research for this exhibition, I was alarmed and shocked by the extent of suffering that women with Endometriosis experience. Endometriosis can be an extremely debilitating disease and it is not well understood. Many women suffer in silence because this disease is so unseen. One of my aims is to articulate this pain in a way that affirms the dignity of the suffering women and promotes further research into treatments.

I pledged a portion of the sale proceeds to be donated to Endometriosis research. Several images sold permitting me to donate $186 to Endometriosis research.


The opening night of “Period Piece”

"Period Piece" openning

Welcome to my solo exhibition, “Period Piece”.

You may see a preview, look at the catalogue.

Anatomy For Beginners - SBS

On Tuesday evening 18 May, I watched a programme on SBS TV, “Anatomy For Beginners”.

This has been a fascinating series of documentaries showing how our bodies work by dissecting plasticised cadavers and by skilled painting on live nude models. Presented by pathologist Professor John Lee, Dr Gunther von Hagens expertly and deftly dissects the human body in a way that shows how the various organs and systems connect.

I watched the episode titled “Reproduction” and was amazed at the intricacies of the inner working of a woman’s body. Dr von Hagens had a series of foetuses in different stages of development. I was looking forward to the different phases of the womb during the menstrual cycle.

Yet not one word was spoken about menstruation! How can a programme about human reproduction ignore menstruation??? Menstruation is fundamental to both woman’s fertility and her sexual availability. We were told the full workings of ejaculation. Why not menstruation??

Dr Gunther von Hagens dissected a womb yet did not explain about the lining and preparation for implantation, nor the menstrual cycle that cleans and replenishes the womb.

This oversight confirms to me that there is still a great deal of silence and denial of menstruation. Despite our scientific culture, there is still an unwillingness to acknowledge this important part of a woman’s body. Menstruation occupies up to one quarter of a woman’s life during her fertile years. This is a lot of time and it impacts on a woman’s life in important ways.

But Professor John Lee and Dr Gunther von Hagens did not think it important enough to even mention during an episode devoted to reproduction!!

You can see the episode here.

"Period Piece" - 20 May to 6 June 2010

Exciting news!

My solo exhibition, “Period Piece” will be held in the Huw Davies Gallery, Manuka Circle, Griffith, ACT.

Period Piece is a statement of respect for women’s bodies, not a response to men’s fantasies. The subtle eroticism and sexuality are used to express what being a woman feels like, with a focus on what menstruation means and feels like in emotional and philosophically symbolic terms.

Because all clothing is a product of a particular culture and time in history, many of the women in “Period Piece” are naked. Nude bodies reduce the distracting influences and are therefore timeless. I use black and white to represent any woman regardless of ethnicity. These images express experiences common to all women.

In many cultures and in the past women have been taught to feel shame about menstruation. There are many rituals and exclusions that frame the menstruating woman as dirty, polluting and someone to avoid. My photographs challenge these prejudices and tabus. My images are confronting, dramatic and surprising, but they are also beautiful and designed to enhance women’s perception of themselves.

Secrecy, prejudice and lack of knowledge can have health implications for vulnerable women. It is difficult for some women to candidly discuss their menstrual problems even with doctors. This body of work helps to open that dialogue. To support women’s health I am donating 10% of sales towards endometriosis research.

I am thrilled that Dr Anne Sneddon, specialist from Canberra Endometriosis Centre will open this exhibition.

The exhibition features 14 original digital photographs printed on archival rag (Canson) in a limited edition of 25 signed prints.
“Period Piece” images are not shown on this website. Ten of the images have not been exhibited before.

You are invited to the opening at 6:00pm on Thursday 20th May.

Labiaplasty

Last night I watched “Hungry Beast” on ABC TV. This program, presented by plucky young people, picks out interesting and controversial snippets of news and themes. To quote from their website, “ It covers everything from the silly, to the serious, to somewhere in between; always from a different perspective.” Last night was an article about labiaplasty. You may view this online on the following web address. I am writing this link out in longhand, separately because the clip contains images of genitals and talks about genital surgery. These images are rated as M15+ and if such material offends you, do not click on the link;
http://hungrybeast.abc.net.au/stories/labiaplasty

There were two aspects to the report;
  1. the censorship laws that allowed full frontal nudity only if labia are not visible
  2. the increase in the number of real women having plastic surgery to cut off their perfectly normal, healthy labia.

The censorship laws are accommodated by some magazine editors by manipulating photographs of women and trimming their labia digitally within Photoshop. The women models remained healthy and intact, but of course the image is a construction, not a true representation.

Unfortunately the publishing of these altered images gives the public the impression that labia are not normally visible. Normal women are seeing their genitalia as ugly and in need of modification. The plastic surgeon called it “surgical improvement”! Of course he would, it helps his business to call it improvement. I am horrified by this. Surely labiaplasty is genital mutilation. All surgery carries risk, infection, poor workmanship, healing problems, scarring, loss of sensation, even death from complications. This is a lot of risk for something that is not even a true representation of women and is totally unnecessary.

Censorship laws are supposed to protect the population from damaging sexuality, not promoting genital mutilation!

There is also a possible connection with pedophilia. Sexually immature girls have small labia that are not visible from the outside - “a single crease” to quote the Photoshop artist. When a woman reaches puberty, she grows breasts and labia. These are normal secondary sexual characteristics of womanhood. The censorship laws are requiring adult women to look like little girls! If men become habituated to these images, it is a small step to finding under age girls themselves sexually arousing and desirable.

Censorship laws are supposed to protect under age girls, not turn them into objects of desire!

Our culture already sexualises under age girls to a great extent causing enormous suffering to women. This is one more example. You can read more about the sexualisation of girls in, “Getting Real” edited by Melinda Tankard Reist, published by Spinifex, 2009.

Bare feet

Recently, I stayed in a hotel. When a guest stays in a hotel, it is important to feel ‘at home’ and relaxed. As I did not leave the building, I went to the hotel restaurant in bare feet. The concierge sent me back to my room to put my shoes on.

This is an interesting illustration of different meanings. I have travelled to many places, especially in Asia, where taking shoes off is a sign of respect and cleanliness. Yet this time, bare feet was seen as not good enough.

I think it is the notion of public and private space. The restaurant is in the hotel lobby and considered public space, because people can come off the street to patronise the restaurant. Whereas other parts of the hotel, such as the pool and spa, are considered private space, for hotel guests only and bare feet is acceptable there. In fact, I met a couple in the lift with bare feet, on their way to the pool (as indicated by their carrying of towels).

Child nudity

On 6-7 February, The Weekend Australian published a Getty Images photograph on page 17 (editorial, 4 Feb 2010, #964628761 by Mario Tama), from earthquake ravaged Haiti. The picture featured four children in a tent city constructed as temporary shelter for the homeless. Two of the children were nude.

I have written about different types of nudity before (10/07/2008). Child nudity has been discussed a lot recently in Australia especially in relation to art. The discussion centres on the idea that if a child naked and is under 16, which is the age of consent, then, by definition, the nudity is pedophilia. As stated in The Independent, 8 July 2008, “But for Ms Johnston, and like-minded people, all nude images of children are sexual and should be banned.” I disagree with this simplistic explanation. I am not excusing pedophilia. Sexual exploitation is a serious crime and can have serious developmental consequences for growing children. However it would be sad to be so afraid of sexual exploitation that artists and journalists are not permitted to explore other meanings. Nudity has many meanings and purposes.

If children are told that their body is shameful and they need to be embarrassed every time they have their clothes removed, then later when they are adults, sexual relationships may become difficult. When shame is imposed upon children without also an obvious respect for the human body, they loose respect for their own bodies and become uncomfortably self-conscious and may develop body image problems. This is a loss of innocence.

In fact, nude photography can enhance a person’s body image and can be a healing tool. Ellen Fisher Turk has been photographing young women with eating disorders for some fifteen years. Fisher Turk’s therapeutic photographs show the young women’s bodies in a new light and they begin to see themselves as beautiful. It is a healing process.

In The Weekend Australian the children’s nakedness expresses vulnerability and loss. Their nakedness emphasises that they have lost everything. There is no hint of eroticising the children. They are photographed in a documentary style. The photographer has a high viewpoint as if he/she is much taller than the children emphasising that the children are small. The children’s lack of clothing is not contrived nor staged, it is simply how they are. They really have lost everything. These children truly are innocent and the photographer has captured their innocence and vulnerability with great skill and respect.

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is not a big thing in Australia, just a bit of fun. In the spirit of fun and in celebration of love and passion, I have added a couple of new photos to my ‘Artistic Nudes’ page.

My next show will be ‘Shed Nudes’, held at the Artists’ Shed in Queanbeyan, NSW. A variety of talented artists participate, showcasing different styles and interesting treatments of the human form.

You are welcome at the opening at 7:00pm, Thursday 18th February 2010
14 Foster St
Queanbeyan, NSW