The first part of this section asks you to spend time looking for inspiration using the title ‘Man-made environment’. I had started an architecture theme book back in ACA and not developed it due to working on my portrait theme book. I find it easy to pick out aspects of an image to create a design, so it hasn’t taken me long to produce a series of designs using a variety of repeats. To be honest I wasn’t feeling stretched by the work and was struggling to feel any stimulation by what I had produced. I had the option of fulfilling the brief by following the obvious or, by rethinking the whole concept of what was a man-made environment. I decided on the latter.
I spent time brainstorming what I could consider as a man-made landscape. into my mind came the sentence; ‘man forcing change on nature’. This led me to then think about how we change the landscape of our own bodies through tattoos, piercing, and plastic surgery. On-line there were many images of people who had taken each to the extremes both as fashion and as a product of their body dis-morphia for me to draw on, yet, still I didn’t feel a compulsion to explore this. Then I came across an article about female genital mutilation. Suddenly I felt the need to see where I could take this, or where this would take me? I had recognised I was now driven to research this.
I read about what was involved, the types of mutilation carried out, the circumstances and the history of the practice. There are, fortunately many charities and organisations who are working to help girls and women who have survived this practice and also to offer help to those at danger of this practice taking place. The images on the internet are graphic and nauseating as are the details about what takes place. I searched for artists who had taken this subject to produce works. I came across many but one, one a man called Jamie McCartney who had made ‘The great wall of vagina’s’ which captured my imagination. He had taken plaster casts of 400 women’s vulvas, which he then placed them together in a landscape. His motivation was to show women how different yet beautiful our vulvas are. Vaginoplasty is apparently one of the growth areas of plastic surgery, due to the notion that women now wish to change how their vulvas look. To prettify them. I don’t understand this personally but I don’t mean that to be a judgement of those women, simply a recognition of the ignorance I have that every woman is more or less the same. I have seen only one other womans vulva, apart from my daughters when changing nappies. It was a school friend who when we were changing for a swimming lesson, asked if she could see me ‘down below’ as she was worried about how she looked. We were around 10 years old. I was only reminded of this whilst researching this work. I saw she was slightly different to me, the inner labia (Labia minora) were prominent but I was left a little puzzled why she was worried but didn’t want to pry. Whilst reading about vaginoplasty I realised what her worry was.
McCartneys Great wall of vagina HERE
How I could translate this information into a screen print I am just beginning to look at. I know that if I am to push myself and discover who I can be as an artist, I need to go with something that isn’t an obvious option.
Apart from my reaction of horror with regards to the practice of FGM, I am also curious as to the root of my feelings and reactions and why I would want to find a way of working with this type of material? I can see that since the part 1 project where I began to look at the identity of my ancestors and the imprint their lives may have had on my own. I am curious about the wider notion of what is our identity? Is it something we are blindly ignorant to with the only references being a like and dislike of people, situations or ‘things’? I can see in many ways how my ancestors lives impacted on my parents and in turn my life, either by nature or nurture. having a very difficult relationship with my mother due to her wanting me to look and behave a certain way, and subsequently feeling rejection and admonishment for not conforming to her will, has made me question for many years who I truly am. I am certain of my identity now and aware that within my self there are aspects of my own self which are dominant depending on my role at the time. I am a Daughter, Mother, Grand-Mother, wife, artist and a woman. I am also aware of the child that lives and breathes inside me, who is shy, uncertain, yet bold and enquiring. What must it be to have the very aspect of your woman hood ripped and cut from you, often by the women you look to for comfort and approval? To have shame poured on you for having sexual organs that can facilitate enjoyment and ecstasy? I cannot comprehend the fear the children and young women must endure.
I was able through learning about my great Grandmother, to empathise and imagine how her life must have been and what thoughts she may have had. So far whilst learning about FGM, I am finding that I am unable open up and to lean in to the lives of these women in the same way. Again I feel the exploration of this subject using art may enable me to further understand my own reactions and attractions to this subject.
Initial studies from my sketchbook looking at architecture.
I have particularly enjoyed using my photography in this way and would like to revisit the images to develop work in the future.