Art of Woman

Endometriosis Study

Do You Have Endometriosis?

A researcher I know, Maryam Moradi is doing a PhD studying how endometriosis affects women. She is inviting women with endometriosis to complete this newly developed questionnaire to measure the long term impact of this condition. The questions in the Endometriosis Impact Questionnaire (EIQ) have been developed based on 10 focus group discussions with 35 women with endometriosis. This study is being conducted by researchers through the Australian National University (ANU) and Canberra Endometriosis Centre.

Please invite anyone you know who has endometriosis to participate. You may place the attached Information sheet on your websites, Facebook and anywhere else you think is appropriate. Data collection for the project will close on 28 March 2014.

I encourage women with endometriosis to support this study, https://apollo.anu.edu.au/default.asp?pid=7700. Contact Maryam Moradi 0403 679 650 or email her at: maryam.moradi.fu@gmail.com

See information page and flyer,
Endometriosis Study Moradi ANU

Monthlies Campaign

20121106120118-indiegogo-ovulo-with-text
What is menstruation? What changes in a girl’s life when ''it'' first arrives? Monthlies is a fresh film exploring the period with humour and sensitivity.

See a promotional clip of
MONTHLIES

This is an exciting new film being produced. It is an educational animation designed to teach pre-pubescent girls about menstruation in a positive way. I can see this film helping millions of women all around the world. I fully support comprehensive and positive sex and reproductive education. This film will generate discussion about intimate health issues potentially saving many lives and averting suffering. Many adult women received negative messages about menstruation when they were growing up. This film will be healing for adult women too.

Today I donated to the production costs through crowd funding, Indiegogo. I am proud to support intimate woman's health and girls' reproductive health education. I love the concept of positive period awareness that overcomes yuck factor attitudes to menstruation. Congratulations, great work!

Unleash Your Creativity

It is with great excitement that I invite my followers in London to an exciting workshop hosted by Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer, at the Awareness Centre in Clapham. Alexandra Pope is a co-author of the well known book, The Pill: Are You Sure It’s For You? (Allen and Unwin, 2008) and author of The Wild Genie: The Healing Power of Menstruation, (Sally Milner 2001). This workshop is designed to tap into women’s deep creativity through intimate body awareness. Women’s Quest describe the innovative workshop as follows:

you will learn about the 4 key stages of the creative process and how they are intimately linked with the inner seasons of your cycle.With this understanding, you can: • Discover your secret time for accessing ideas, inspirations and visions • Find a natural motivation and finally give procrastination the boot • And learn about the vital role of the inner critic, and how to harness its power to serve rather than destroy what you are doing

I fully support my photos being used to enhance this workshop for women's creativity. My photos explore different meanings and symbolism associated with menstruation. I have used my own experience, the experiences of friends and relatives and learnt from myths and the images generated by the language women use for the body and slang euphemisms. My photography suits this workshop very well.

Unleash Your Creativity Workshop: 10am-6pm, Sat 29th Sept 2012
Where: The Awareness Centre, 41 Abbeville Rd, Clapham, SW4 9JX www.theawarenesscentre.com
Cost: £85/£50 (students) For concession please apply
For more info: Phone: 07974388973 or info@womensquest.org
The photos will be hanging in the Awareness Centre after the workshop until the end of November.
Women's Quest News 2012 Unleashing Your Creativity

Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis Information Night

Melissa Parker speaking about endometriosis. She used my photographs to engage the audience.
Melissa Parker speaking about endometriosis

On 30May I was invited to display some of my exhibition quality photographs at an endometriosis information evening. The evening was hosted by the Canberra Endometriosis Centre which is dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment and management of endometriosis. Many women, from teens to mature women, suffer terribly from endometriosis. Symptoms include severe pelvic pain, heavy bleeding, fertility problems and general ill health. These symptoms disrupt girls’ schooling and cause affected women to take time off work. As a result of these symptoms, endometriosis can put immense stress on relationships; both personal and work relationships. It is a poorly understood disorder and many women suffer for years before diagnosis and effective treatment is implemented.

Guest speaker was Dr Susan Evans from Adelaide. She is a Gynaecologist and Advanced Laporoscope Surgeon who specialises in managing endometriosis and pelvic pain. She has authored several books including Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain (which was available to buy), the e-book Pelvic Pain and The Pelvic Pain Report.

I have a deep compassion for this often hidden suffering and I use my art to promote awareness and to fundraise. Modern medical techniques have progressed and many endometriosis sufferers can be treated. There is no reason for women to suffer for years without treatment.

Endometriosis night was well attended with standing room only in the auditorium. Many aspects of endometriosis were discussed. Melissa Parker (RN RM MNurs, endometriosis coordinator and researcher) from Canberra Endometriosis Centre, used some of my photos, with my permission, in her presentation. They were a contrast to the usual laparoscopy images and clinical diagrams.

It is exciting to see that my photos communicate so effectively. My display in the lobby slowed attendees down. Before and after the formal presentations, the attendees enjoyed looking at my photos and many spoke to me about aspects of women’s intimate health. Many people asked about the ideas I express in my photography. These discussions opened up discussion about support for women sufferers and gave the support group an opportunity to engage with attendees.

Topics and Speakers on the night:
  • Management of Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis: Dr Susan Evans
  • Endometriosis and Fertility: Dr Felicity Brims
  • Living with Endometriosis and Activities of the Canberra Endometriosis Centre: Melissa Parker

Margaret Kalms with some of her photographs from her solo exhibition, “Period Piece”
Margaret Kalms with some of her photographs from her solo exhibition

Buying Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain by Dr Susan Evans
Woman buying the book Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain

"Period Piece" exhibition in Sydney - bigger and better

I’m very excited to announce that my solo exhibition, “Period Piece” will be exhibited in Sydney, opening on International Women’s Day, 8th March 2011 at Polymorph Art Gallery, Level 1, 7/82 Enmore Rd, Newtown, NSW.

There will be 20 photographs on display! Since my solo exhibition last year at PhotoAccess, I have done more photography and added 10 new photographs. All are original art photographic prints and are available for sale. This is a limited edition of 25, signed by me and printed on archival rag Canson paper.

It is my great honour to introduce Dr Sue Beautum, MBBS FAMAC who will open this exhibition. Dr Sue Beautum has had a life-long passion to be a doctor with a special interest in women and children’s health. Since the 90s she has been fascinated by acupuncture as a therapy and has incorporated this into her practice. She received the John Woodley Memorial Prize for her academic achievement, being top in Australia in her acupuncture studies.

Dr Sue Beautum often combines western medicine with acupuncture, using acupuncture as an adjunct to or alternative to drugs, many of which have unpleasant side effects. Like traditional chinese medicine, she sees women as part of their environment. She takes a holistic view of healing. In many cases, painful, heavy periods can be managed by acupuncture. Regulation of the menstrual cycle can be achieved in many women with the use of acupuncture. Later in life, acupuncture can ameliorate the symptoms of menopause reducing reliance on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).

Dr Sue Beautum agrees with my aims of giving women’s intimate health issues a voice. She sees that good communication and good imagery can open the dialogue between women and health professionals.

I will be raising money for UN Women Australia during this exhibition.

Here is the invitation to the opening. Invite your friends and join with me for a drink and nibbles at Polymorph Art Gallery,

7:30pm on Tuesday, 8th March, 2011, International Women’s Day.

Where: Polymorph Art Gallery
Level 1, 7/82 Enmore Road, Newtown, NSW, Australia
9519 8923
www.polymorphbodypiercing.com.au

Gallery Hours: Mon-Fri 11am - 7pm, Sat 10am - 7pm, Sun 11am - 6pm

New Mikvah, Jewish Ritual Bath in Giralang, Canberra

It was announced in The Canberra Times on Monday 17th January that a new Mikvah will open in Giralang in Canberra next month. A mikvah is a ritual bath that women take seven days after menstruation. This bath marks the renewal of physical relations with the woman’s husband. Orthodox Jewish couples do not touch each other during menstruation or for seven days after until the woman is made ritually pure. Many Orthodox Jewish women find this time of no touching a time of mental space. The women do not become sex objects for their husbands. The couple can get to know each other in different ways. The wife is given a rest from sexually performing. After the mikvah, the wife is able to return to physical relations with renewed enthusiasm.

This will make life easier for Canberra’s Orthodox Jewish community. It is the first mikvah to be built in Canberra. Until now, some Orthodox Jewish women would travel to Sydney or Melbourne each month in order to take part in the ritual purity bath after menstruation. A local mikvah will mean it will be easier to fulfil ritual purity requirements.

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”

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.

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
breaks
apart
in grief

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

It gathers like angry water

beating blood

against
flush,
tender walls,
crashing comfort,
painfully pulsing

out of me.

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

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

Tamara

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.

The Gruen Transfer - feminine hygiene

The advertising of women's sanitary products was featured recently on "The Gruen Transfer" on ABC TV, episode 6, 2/7/2008.  It is sub-titled: feminine hygiene; the things with strings and the things with wings! The commentary is lively, making fun of the language used to advertise these products. There are a lot of euphemisms and symbolism around this issue. No-one is willing to be frank on public TV. Some of the ads play on embarrassment, double meanings and timing give the advertising humour.

It was unfortunate that the panel consisted of only one woman and four men! The men, to their credit, do show a lively interest. I love the suggestion that tampons should come wrapped within a kinder surprise!

I wanted to see a young woman's opinion. The advertisements are aimed at young women, and it would have been interesting to know how young women react to these issues. Are there different attitudes with the different generations? Are young women more free and open, or are they trying to hide all the evidence of menstruation as past generations did? How does menstruation fit in with their lives? Do they have different needs and expectations of the products because of their different stories, adventures and experiences?
I did enjoy the humour and suggest you check it out on http://www.abc.net.au/tv/gruentransfer/download.htm

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