The little e(vulvas)
It's tricky.... writing.
Because I'm inclined to be truthful.
But sometimes that involves information which includes others.
Those that are, or have been close to me. In my life.
For what is life, but the summation of relationships?
With self, with others, with place, with objects, with all that is around us...
So to be tactful, respectful, I am going to try to remove all associations with particular people and generalise as much as I can.
That being said. What am I here to talk to you about?
Well, what are they?
They are a series of 81 plus drawings done on small squarish pieces of cotton rag paper, for the exhibition titled "The Vulva Project" which is currently being shown at the launching pad gallery in Thornbury - details can be found on this page: https://www.fionahaasz.info/vulva
I was watching Hannah Gadsby tonight and amongst her hilarious, moving, courageous and brilliant comedic set, she expressed her hatred of Picasso.
I've always loved Picasso's work. His art. And when I went to Sydney College of the Arts, the done thing was to bag Picasso because of his misogynistic ways. At the time I was pretty annoyed. I liked his carefree way of expressing himself and his art in general was inspiring. He had the courage to completely go over a fabulous painting to find a new fabulous painting and continue in this way - his work was fearless, playful and emotive. His work gave me permission to decide not to be afraid of timing, or wrecking a perfect image, of losing anything, of being prolific and varied in mediums.
I wasn't a fan of anyone being misogynistic though. And yet I didn't want to stop being inspired by his work just because of his personal habits or behaviour.
In saying that I get it. I get that we live in a time (and its now over 20 years later and its still that time) in which we really do need to address the way men have at times absorbed patriarchal tendencies to demean women in both obvious and more subtle ways. Likewise, us women have absorbed patriarchal beliefs leading to the prevalence of low self-esteem.
Take the conversation I had with a couple of women in the gallery the other day.
We were talking about the etymology of words used to describe females. We all declared we didn't like to be called a "lady" because it was laden with derogatory connotations. "Woman" was far more preferable and less class-related. But its origin is "wife of man". ie. property of man. Man's property. Which reminded me of my research in to the origins of marriage I did last year. Certainly not a great underpinning for the sacred union of two people - rape apparently was part of the origins of marriage, and certainly for centuries, the possessing and passing a woman from father to husband, hardly shows any equality or respect towards a woman who is deemed to be owned as part of the process. An object.
I see a link between respect of woman, the feminine, land and Indigenous people. Ownership is part of the puzzle. Belonging is a better word. When we belong to each other, to the land, to our community, to the world as a whole, we all fit together in this as interdependent equals.
So, what do we do with this? We acknowledge it.
The power of acknowledgment is extraordinary!
If every Australian acknowledged that this land was stolen and the genocide that followed hasn't quite ended.. well, it would help matters somewhat. Telling truth, creating open dialogue, is so powerful it eradicates schizophrenia in Scandanavia, where they practice the simple art of sharing truths in a format where there are no hierarchies... and people with psychosis, fail to develop schizophrenia.
So.. like the Indigenous of the planet, women are also calling to be acknowledged.
And other minorities such as those who choose to love in less than stereotypical ways, such as those of the same sex. Big deal! Who cares who we choose to love? Since when did humanity decide to discriminate on race, gender, religion, sexuality?
It hasn't always been this way! It's not the "normal" and every being who stands up and says "I will not abide by this" is helping to recreate the world we all know we will better thrive in.
One of my previous exhibitions was titled "What if we were to imagine our rivers were drinkable again?".
So this is it.
In some ways I'm saying "What if we were to imagine a world where we totally accepted everyone and were all treated with the same respect, women, men, of all colours, loving whoever they feel like loving?"
The more we imagine the world we want, the more chance we have of manifesting it.
So... back to the "little e(vulvas)"... I'm rambling.
Why are they?
What are they?
Who are they?
Well my work, as it turns out, is as usual, deeply personal.
And in this case, whilst the drawings are not representational replicas of my own vulva (phew), they are a process, a moment in time, frozen through marks on a paper, evidence of an inner journey, sacred and unrepeatable.
They are a reference to a journey of reclaiming my vulva, my own energy, my own sexuality, my own understanding of my sensuality and my womanhood, my femininity, my spirituality, my pleasure centre, my creative portal, my body.
They are a casual and laid back practice of giving myself permission to be whatever I am in any given moment.
They are a firm and strong celebration of vulnerability and its power.
They are a landmark of a woman's relationship with herself.
All that and so much more and so much less. They just are.
And in some ways, that is what drawing these vulvas has shown me and hence their name - that in every moment we are evolving and with this, we are continuing to develop and change our understanding of ourselves, our relationships. The beauty of this is that each moment is new and different and holds infinite potential.
And with that I am leaving you with the link to the page on my site in which I'm selling these little e(vulvas) as I would like to share them with you. So if you like, you can take home a fragment of my journey and remind yourself that you too have permission to be ok with whatever part of your own journey you are in.
It is never over and never is there reason for judgement. For if one's vulva can be depicted riding a skateboard in one moment and in another it can see itself as the knot in a tree trunk, or a scar perhaps from the removal of bark to make a canoe, then really one can allow oneself to be in whatever state one is in, without any form of fear. For it is just a moment in time.
As Picasso demonstrated, from one perfect moment, another is also on the horizon.
Those little e(vulvas) demanded honesty with myself and gave me permission to allow whatever to emerge, and just be, knowing that there will be another, and another, to follow, and flow, like a river... the element of water, the great feminine principal, which nourishes our journeys to recover from all those erroneous beliefs our culture had us absorb. They are washed away through such a process.
One little e(vulvas) at a time, we can emerge and renew ourselves, equipped with the inner knowing which we all have, that we are all equal and loveable and valuable.
And back to Hannah Gadsby, and the topic I began with - about not wanting to mention details of my story for not wanting to be disrespectful. There is a fine line. For it is my opinion that human nature does not really want to exist in the spread out, global way we do, but craves a smallish group of people to call community or extended family, (and to be connected to place too rather than roaming around everywhere) and that stories by the fire, are personal and healing as well as entertaining - they serve many purposes.
One of those purposes is to allow the speakers, the members of the community, to share their truth about all sorts of things, including anything that has been damaging to them, such as being raped or bashed, which is part of what Hannah, ended up courageously revealing to her audience, breaking the rules of comedy and entering in to the realm of personal storytelling, and facilitation of personal (and therefore also communal) healing.
Hence also the #metoo movement.
Acknowledgment is powerful.
When we share our truth, we are acknowledged just by simply being heard
I've always felt that the sharing of one's truth, is a form of love.
For me, its always a fine line between sharing my art as "art", which is readable within the confines of the 'art world' (and within that magical place of straddling the personal and universal) or surrendering totally to the needs of the story which wants to be shared and told.
The little e(vulvas) have a very personal story.
I did a series of vulva drawings in my sketchbook in New York late last year, (which are showing as part of a video piece in the exhibition and can be seen on my Vulva Project page) which were an expression of a kind of erotic awakening of sorts, triggered by a relationship I was in at the time.
Then when asked to be a part of this exhibition, I wondered how I would work with the theme given the relationship I had with myself had changed abruptly, just as the person I was with had so suddenly changed and left, and as I had so closely associated that transformation with that person, it felt like it had left with them.
Grief has its own path. It cannot be forced, suppressed or reckoned with.
These little drawings served to bring me back to myself in a way that I wasn't conscious of at the time.
Initially I intended them to fit in to the small grid like pattern of the pressed metal ceiling of the gallery. It was uncanny I was intending to place my sacred personal, sensual part of myself up high, in an unreachable place.
When they began to be made, they were brought with me to places, so I could add to the collection wherever I was, and so the thankies were used to wrap them safely for those journeys. Soon enough it was revealed the fabric wrapping was part of the work... the fabric perhaps representing that self-nurturing that is necessary when healing from trauma, and a return to that private, intimate space that sensuality lies.
When you go to the gallery, you are invited to wrap and unwrap the little e(vulvas) to create your own discovery.
Not only did they return me to my body, they helped to heal layers of ancestral trauma that resided in my pelvic bowl and led me to grow beyond the trauma and pain of the initial shock and grief.
So... whilst I began to endeavour to keep this story impersonal, in the end, I've taken inspiration from Hannah and allowed myself to reveal my story.
Its a glimpse. And of course the reality is far more complex and simple, ongoing and fleeting as the riddle of life is in a way.
I hope this resonates and is useful to you in some way.