I’ve always had problems with my periods. I‘ve had them too often. My cycle would be last for 20 days, sometimes less, between 15 –18 days. Losing a lot of blood would make me more tired. I found having a period annoying, disgusting, making me reject the experience.
But then I questioned the idea of using the blood in my art to change my perspective about my menstrual cycle. To embrace this part of being female by creating something. Normally we will relate all the emotional ups and downs felt during the month as something negative, but we can approach it more positively, thinking ‘Ok, I feel special, different. I might feel like I hate everyone and want to cry but I’m actually sensing something different: emotions!’
It is important for me to create something where I can put all my positive energy and soul into. My work is a way to understand the most simplistic, rudimentary ways of doing things, without chemicals and machines. This is driven by a fascination in the cycle of nature, of birth, life and death.
When I started painting with my period blood I thought to myself ‘This is disgusting’, because it’s not paint, it’s a different textured liquid; thicker, mucussy. But when the colour sits on top of a clean white surface it is so strong and beautiful. Seeing how it moved on the paper made me suddenly observe it as something beautiful. I practiced using it with the materials I usually mix with paint, testing their reactions with period blood, seeing how it became something more interesting.
This work is made using three separate menstrual cycles over the course of a year. It made me observe elements of myself such as how much I was bleeding, the thickness of the blood because it then effected the way I created. The smell changes over time too, the first day it’s fresh, but overtime it doesn’t smell so good! It’s a part of myself so it was initially alive, reflecting the cycle of being born, having periods of living and then dying.
I exhibited some of these pieces in my solo show, but chose to say it was just blood. If I show them again I would like to be confident in embracing my choice and saying they’re made with my period blood and so what?! I think this sense of hiding what is natural for us is encouraged by society. We have contraceptive pills which make our periods disappear, which is rational but discourages a consideration for what we really are.
I really feel we need to change the mentality; I’m starting to feel like it‘s something special. For myself it‘s very important, it would be nice if I could make someone understand that it’s something good. When other’s think of it as something disgusting and negative, it makes me feel shit, it doesn’t make any sense. A menstrual cycle is natural, it is part of reproduction and reproduction is creation, the same creation as a painting is for me. We should be celebrating the beauty of our menstrual cycle.
Written in conversation between Odilia Suanzes and Bethany Burgoyne
Images provided by and copyright of Odilia Suanzes