Tired of that worn-out trope that women are impossible to work with or aren’t creative when they are “on the rag”? Well these five artists/projects are defying this belief, using menstruation as fuel for empowerment and art.
Awhile back I read an article on Autostraddle about Zanele Muholi, a South African artist whose work deals with topics of South African lesbian oppression. On her website, I saw one of Muholi’s exhibits, Isilumo siyaluma (Period Pains), stood out to me—it’s a series of artwork done with menstrual blood. Muholi’s exhibit is a commentary on the pain of menstruation literally and symbolically, but is more specifically tied to the use of “corrective rape” in Africa to “cure” queer women into being heterosexual.
Through the artist Vanessa Tiegs, I learned that there is a term for menstrual art and it’s Menstrala. Vanessa Tiegs’ Menstrala project, is just one component of a greater body of work: Spiraling Moon.
In her own words, the “goal of Spiraling Moon is to connect women with their cyclical rhythms to recognize and elicit menstrual awareness, menstrual creativity, and menstrual intuition. The result is to empower oneself through a better understanding of the pre-menstrual phase.” Tiegs work is focused on getting women to embrace their menstruation and use it for art. Tiegs leads sessions with women to empower them to turn that ol’ that-time-of-the-month mentality, into an “intellectually creative one.” Curious about starting your own menstrual art? She’s the woman to help you get inspired.
Another artist, Ingrid Berthon-Moine, has a project called Red is the Colour, which is a series of photographs showing women using menstrual blood as lipstick. (Check out our coverage of her from last fall.) She titled each photograph in suggestive terms such as “Red Temptation” and “Rouge Hollywood” drawing similarities to the ways cosmetic companies title their lipstick lines.
May Ling Su
Su’s work is titled On My Period. In a very different vein than Muholi, Tiegs, and Berthon-Moine, it is far more graphic. On her website, Su says that she spent two years taking photographs, videos, and diaries—and many of which are of photos and videos of herself menstruating. One video of herself on the site is of her smearing her own menstrual blood all over her naked body on a beach (talk about reclaiming that whole “can’t go to the beach on your period” taboo). In 2010, this website was nominated for a Feminist Porn Award. Su’s art takes her menstrual blood and pairs it with her sexuality in a way that clashes the stigma of dirtiness and uncleanliness that menstruation has held for many for centuries (see the Christian Old Testament).
Menstrala Open Forum
If you are looking for a community to share your Menstrala, Live Journal has a community titled “Blood Art—Menstrala,” where members can share their own Menstrala and ideas for Menstrala with each other in an open forum.