Menstrual Art:
November 8, 2002 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Menstrual Art: Vanessa Tiegs uses her livejournal and her own, uh "natural" paint supply to make some pretty cool paintings. (via fullofnothing)
My intention in making paintings using my menstrual blood is to create beauty from something that most people would rather avoid. I consider my paintings as personal and political images presenting a positive and celebratory attitude toward menstruation.

posted by Ufez Jones (67 comments total)
Sorry about the spaces at the end of the post. I had the 'via' there originally, but it looked really bad, so I cut and pasted and forgot to delete the lines. (off, jackals!)
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:21 AM on November 8, 2002

I hold a celebratory attitude towards menstruation, and I've got the party hat to prove it.
posted by pemulis at 9:24 AM on November 8, 2002

I'll take "Nobody is impressed with my depressing poetry and I'm out of other ideas with which to shock the world and display my non-conformity" for $500.00, Alex.
posted by bondcliff at 9:29 AM on November 8, 2002

Menstrual fluid in art is so 1993.
posted by Xkot at 9:30 AM on November 8, 2002

Ewwww. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. This is so gross on so many many levels. I mean, I'm all for being okay with the natural part of being a woman, but this is just gross.

How on earth does she COLLECT and STORE her "paint?" No, nevermind, I don't want to know.

Who on earth would BUY this and put it in their House? "Oh yes. This lovely work hanging over our dinner table is menstrual blood on paper."

posted by aacheson at 9:37 AM on November 8, 2002

That's just nutty.

posted by jonmc at 9:38 AM on November 8, 2002

I love the comment section for each piece, "Thank you for your thoughtful comment"

I am actually curious about what types of brushes/paper etc. she uses, would you treat the medium like a water color? acrylic? what?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:39 AM on November 8, 2002

I'm just kicking myself now for not somehow saving any of my many "pee art with signature in snowbank" works.
posted by yhbc at 9:40 AM on November 8, 2002

"Personally, it's the way I celebrate my cycles and express the increasing creative charge during my menstrual week. Politically, I publish my paintings to increase awareness of woman's peaceful blood which is kept hidden and to state that menstruation can be regarded as beautiful and awe inspiring. "

Woman's peaceful blood? Beautiful? The "increasing creative charge during my menstrual week?" This woman is too much. Does she hang a poster out on her house every month declaring the beauty and wonderous thing that is happening to her? Would she like to NOT keep her "peaceful blood" hidden? Go tell it on the mountains, sister!

By the way, art lovers, she also welcomes you to send her your own menstrual art and she will post on the website. Wait for mine, coming soon! I just have to wait a couple weeks until my wonderous time comes again....
posted by aacheson at 9:42 AM on November 8, 2002

I feel the same way about this as I do about booger art, fart art, burp art, and spit art.
posted by oh posey at 9:43 AM on November 8, 2002

"That's just nutty.


No pun intended? ;)
posted by irishkitten at 9:45 AM on November 8, 2002

Okay--I'm with aacheon. I'm wondering how it's "cured" without smelling. That's all I'm gonna say.
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 9:48 AM on November 8, 2002

I hate to think what the next step would be.

But any poopy one-year-old could probably guess.
posted by konolia at 9:50 AM on November 8, 2002

As an acceptance of my severe allergies.... may I present snot on canvas.

eeewwww... iccckkk... buhhh!
posted by bmxGirl at 9:51 AM on November 8, 2002

Now I've got the original KISS comic books printed with real KISS blood (they each dumped a pint into the vat of read ink) ... BUT THAT'S KISS and we know what they are all about.

This is pretty much the same without the great rock-n-roll.

Blatant shock/buzz attempt with a really nutty rationalization.

And just plain gross. At least KISS got to defeat Dr. Doom!
posted by acutetype at 9:51 AM on November 8, 2002

Well, I finally went to the site. First I don't have a clue how she kept it from turning brown...

Hope she never has to have a hysterectomy-if she did her work would dry up..:-)
posted by konolia at 9:55 AM on November 8, 2002

konolia: It's already been dung...
posted by languagehat at 9:56 AM on November 8, 2002

Are the rest of you seeing the images? Because they aren't loading for me... maybe we've clotted the flow?
posted by taz at 10:06 AM on November 8, 2002

RE: the question of how she collects and stores her "paint". Looks like she doesn't collect it -- just drops it onto the page.

As for me, a woman who's pretty damn positive about my cycles (my mother runs a "moonlodge" for godsake!), even I find the art a little wince-worthy. I don't need to hide the fact that I'm menstruating, but I also don't need to fingerpaint with it. That said, I suppose that, after so many years of shame about menstruation (see the Museum of Menstruation for more info), there's bound to be some reactionary pendulum swinging.
posted by arielmeadow at 10:09 AM on November 8, 2002

Ha ha, clotted the flow.

Anyway, you guys need to get out more. Tons of artists have used blood and "nasty gross" body stuff (you know, all that horrible stuff we're actually made of). This doesn't mean that all of it is good art, but some of it is.

Anthony Viti paints with his own blood.

*NOT safe for work* --> Keith Boadwee paints with his, uh, ass <--*REALLY not safe for work*

I think this menstrual blood painting is kind of sweet, if, as Ariel so rightly put it, a little wince-worthy.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:20 AM on November 8, 2002

If you prefer sculpture.
posted by Frank Grimes at 10:20 AM on November 8, 2002

Then there's Marc Quinn, who sculpted his head out of his own blood.
posted by liam at 10:25 AM on November 8, 2002

Isn't this what Maude Lebowski was all about? I hear her art has been commended as strongly vaginal.

Life imitating art or art imitating life?
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:29 AM on November 8, 2002

I wonder if it looks like meat...
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:30 AM on November 8, 2002

I know we're supposed to just say "eew, yuck," but if you set aside her choice of materials, some of the work isn't half bad: nice calligraphic sense, almost Kandinsky-ish at times.

As for the material: seems to me like kind of a thin gimmick to hang an art career on (and not entirely original either: compare this dreck for example, which is neither calligraphic nor Kandinskyish nor, well, any good at all) -- but there are plenty of artists you could make the same complaint about.

I give it a 7: it's got a good beat and you can dance to it.
posted by ook at 10:31 AM on November 8, 2002

I won't even look at this.
posted by 111 at 10:31 AM on November 8, 2002

Wolfdaddy, on first glance I read your comment as "or art irritating life?".... and I liked it!
posted by taz at 10:33 AM on November 8, 2002

According to the Mark Bowden's article in the May 2002 issue of Atlantic Monthly, Saddam Hussein regularly donated his blood so that a copy of the Koran could be written with it. Perhaps the two of them could hold some kind of joint exhibition? "Pictures by Vanessa Tiegs; text by Saddam Hussein." Talk about opening a dialogue!
posted by Man-Thing at 10:45 AM on November 8, 2002

Very impressive. But what can she do with an Etch-A-Sketch?
posted by NedKoppel at 11:10 AM on November 8, 2002

I'm wondering if you buy one for $35 if you get an original, or just a print. So you may not have to worry about smell and whatnot.

I'm glad ook and RJR enjoyed some of the art from the 'as art' perspective. I enjoyed the site. I wouldn't want to watch her do it or anything, but I think it's kind of cool.

I do understand the squeamishness though.
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:21 AM on November 8, 2002

Utter loonybird. An artistic incarnation of these folks:

Candles adorn the altar, preferably red ones. We always inquired, "Who's bleeding tonight?" At least one woman was usually having her period. We fantasized for the day all of us would simultaneously bleed on the new moon.

We would then proceed to more magical activities. We often sang and chanted, but we especially looked forward to the guided meditations. Once we took a journey into our wombs. Our facilitator led us through our vaginas, up into our fallopian tubes where we were slipping and sliding off the walls like some amusement park ride, and finally deep inward back to the warmth of our uterus. It was a very vivid and novel adventure. After each journey we shared our feelings...


We have never once seen a woman urinate publicly, although it probably happens on occasion. The impediments may be due to biology, dress or manners, not to mention women's socialized propensity to suffer in silence. Also, many women are trained to pick up after everyone else's garbage, including their own, and thus don't tend to make public messes.

posted by MaxVonCretin at 11:29 AM on November 8, 2002

I'm kinda thinking the only thing dramatic about her work is the medium though. She doesn't seem to have come into her own as far as a style or form, it just sort of flows (no, not a pun, sicko) willy-nilly from month to month, sometimes formless, sometimes representational. Maybe it just reflects her moods at the moment? Thoughts?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:30 AM on November 8, 2002

No, I'm not talking a "that time of the month" mood swing sort of thing here, at least not intentionally, read what you will, I mean more along the lines that her style is so changing from piece to piece its hard to put a finger on where SHE is in the work.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:39 AM on November 8, 2002

If I hadn't known what medium she was using, I would enjoy these paintings and even consider hanging one in my home. However... I do know, and... ewww.

arielmeadow: Regarding her dropping it onto the page, you can't get that clean, or that large, of a dollop of blood directly from its, uh, source. It would need to be collected in some way before being poured onto the paper.

As for a way of collection, the keeper would work wonderfully.
posted by rhapsodie at 11:40 AM on November 8, 2002

Here's a woman who collects canvases for this style of art.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:41 AM on November 8, 2002

The "1980s Collection"? Madam, I quite terrified until I actually clicked the link. "Whew" this is a sigh of relief.
posted by taz at 11:59 AM on November 8, 2002

Hi, my name's Dave Foley, and, uh, something you might not know about me is that .. I have a good attitude towards menstruation. That's right, I'm the guy! The guy with a good attitude towards menstruation!

Oh, I know a lot of men are made uncomfortable by this monthly miracle. But not me. No, I embrace it. Embrace it the way the way some men embrace the weekend! Why I anticipate it the way a child anticipates Christmas!

Did you know that, uh, in alot of native Indian cultures, menstruating woman were forced to leave the village, lest they're *powerfull* magic should overwhelm the Shaman? If I were the Shaman, I wouldn't be so competitive. I'd be more open and giving. I'd be a shaman with... a good attitude towards menstruation!
posted by fletchmuy at 12:01 PM on November 8, 2002

We have never once seen a woman urinate publicly, although it probably happens on occasion.

They should have been watching So Graham Norton last night on BBC. Never seen so many pictures of women peeing in public in my life.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:07 PM on November 8, 2002

Right. Now let's stop this notion that menstruation is something to be celebrated. Menstruation is a messy and painful side effect of the brutal and inefficient human reproductive system.

Peaceful? PEACEFUL? Tell that to my 16 year old self, crying with cramp pains, stopping only to throw up bile in the toilet.
posted by Summer at 12:10 PM on November 8, 2002

inefficient human reproductive system

given population growth, i would say it's pretty damn efficient. but i won't argue about messy, painful or brutal.
posted by probablysteve at 12:23 PM on November 8, 2002

I think there's a chapter in the DSM IV dedicated to this.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:40 PM on November 8, 2002

I just hacked phlegm into some tissue paper. Please validate me as an artist!
posted by dhoyt at 12:51 PM on November 8, 2002

given population growth, i would say it's pretty damn efficient

Effective but inefficient. Every month women bleed if they don't conceive. That's very wasteful. And all those discarded eggs. Not to mention very low sex/conception ratios. I vote we go over to the cat system of coming into heat every few weeks.
posted by Summer at 12:59 PM on November 8, 2002

I thought this was called Period Art
posted by ParisParamus at 1:00 PM on November 8, 2002

As for me I rather enjoy the sex part, rather glad that I have a relatively poor track record as to sex/conception ratio, wouldn't want it to be up to 100%, good god, so many rug rats, well, OK, maybe a couple anyway, thanks.

Anyway, is there much merit to her work as work on its own, taking away the medium? Would it be work that would get noticed if it weren't made from such a controversial material? It might be pretty or cute or whatever, but would anyone care that much if it wasn't menstruations? Does the medium validate the work?
posted by Pollomacho at 1:12 PM on November 8, 2002

Here's a related link
Project Mouse

And well, this one too
Mighty Midols --It's friday, right?! (the main midol page has some might midol games to play...

On topic though, I dunno, this doesn't bother me all that much, honestly, I'm taking a drawing class and we get covered in ink, and conte and charcoal, and graphite, many arts are full of messiness.

And it's not like they are painting with someone elses blood, so it makes it relatively safe. She seems to be trying some ways of mixing in acrylics to extend and preserve the 'paint'

Some people paint with blood they cut out of their body with knives, which has to be more dangerous and/or psychologically telling than using a relatively painless procedure this way. (urgh cramps, better call the mighty midols)

Would I do it... Not sure, I'm not racing for one of those keepers, would be more open to the 'drop' method, if I tried, I suppose. At this point in my life though, I've got more than enough different kinds of art supplies I'm trying to learn how to use, that I don't feel the need to tap my own supply.

The ew factor would be consistancy, in that, usually, it's not...
posted by dreamling at 1:27 PM on November 8, 2002

I thought this was called Period Art. Get it? GET IT?!
posted by ParisParamus at 1:28 PM on November 8, 2002

And all those discarded eggs

You think that's inefficient? Every time I have a wank I wipe up an entire civilization!!!
posted by WolfDaddy at 2:16 PM on November 8, 2002

Got it.
posted by aacheson at 2:17 PM on November 8, 2002

The whole "celebration of menstruation" thing also has a rather sharp and pointy angle; if menses in a woman represents empowerment, beauty, strength, etc. (must excuse me, I've googled a number of related sites at this point), then what happens after menopause? Loss of power, intuition and artistic materials? Must we at that point start trying to figure out how to use our wrinkles or caeserian scars to create art in order to be, as dhoyt says, "validated"?
posted by taz at 2:26 PM on November 8, 2002

I refer again to my mother in answering Taz's question: women who practice a "celebration of menstruation" look forward to menopause as the dawning of their "Crone stage," when they become wise older women. Crone is one third of the "goddess trinity" of a woman's life: maiden, mother, crone. The web is filled with stuff about this wiccan-esque frame of thought, if anyone's interested.
posted by arielmeadow at 3:05 PM on November 8, 2002

This is such a great really!

I won't even look at this.
posted by 111

You think you men have difficulty dealing with this? How about us poor women? It is an overwhelmingly difficult subject to come to terms with.

As a child, you dream of the day you will start to menstruate. See: The Diary of Anne Frank

You start your period and it is painful but even worse, messy. How many women have embarrassed themselves with blood on their sheets or on their clothes? Five days out of every 28 (more or less) you have to deal with this stuff constantly draining from your body.

Then at some point (it can happen anytime from late 30's to early 60's) you stop. And are hit with a whole new set of problems not least of which is incontrovertible evidence that you are now old.

But all through your menstruating life there is this great conflict: menstruation defines you as a woman, it is a signal of your ability to bear children, yet it is also an embarrassing secret that only a very select few may be privy to. I think some public airing of our darkest secret is not such a bad thing. Menstrual blood isn't snot, it isn't shit. It isn't even mostly blood. It is just the nutrient-rich lining of the uterus sloughing off because it isn't needed that month.

Ask yourself this, how would you feel if the art was done with sperm? Same amount of ook-factor?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:42 PM on November 8, 2002 [1 favorite]

Compared to the Keith Boadwee link, this woman's work is sane.

If you haven't clicked the Keith link, do. It's boggling. (not work safe, though!)
posted by five fresh fish at 5:14 PM on November 8, 2002

Heh, heh. Thanks for that one fletchmuy. Haven't seen that sketch in years.
posted by DakotaPaul at 5:26 PM on November 8, 2002

Huh. I think they're kind of good.
posted by rushmc at 5:43 PM on November 8, 2002

"What happens after menopause? Must we at that point start trying to figure out how to use our wrinkles or caeserian scars to create art"

Perhaps we could use our hotflash sweat.

I'm not interested in the "art," but this thread makes good points about women being expected to hide something that's such a huge part of their lives. If you're feeling ick from the cramps or PMS, you wouldn't dare announce that in a mixed-gender meeting at work, and probably not even to your female boss. But if you've got a cold, everyone is all "Poor baby."

I remember a print ad for napkins that ran years ago -- pic of a smart-aleck male storeclerk, the caption saying how embarrassing it was to have to buy from a guy. Sure, go ahead. Make young girls feel ashamed.

OTOH Gloria Steinem once said: "If men had periods, they'd brag about how many pads they had to use every month."
posted by NorthernLite at 5:59 PM on November 8, 2002

Sure, go ahead. Make young girls feel ashamed.

Why would a girl feel ashamed to buy napkins unless she had learned somewhere menstruation was something to be ashamed about? Smart -alecks will be smart-alecks whether it's tampons or toothpaste.

Women are the ones who make it hard for men to be comfortable with what is ultra feminine and exclusive to our sex because a lot of us are not comfortable making our monthly flow a daily topic of conversation. I personally don't know many women who go around discussing their bodily functions every time they happen. But I do think it's exclusively up to women to help men get comfortable with the subject. Otherwise he's not worth the effort.

But dripping it on paper and turning it into art isn't the way.
posted by oh posey at 6:45 PM on November 8, 2002

i think what oogs me out here is that most of one's menstrual flow isn't blood, but tissue. hence: eeeeeewww.
posted by tristeza at 7:08 PM on November 8, 2002

I thought it was funny, Paris.

Before I saw the links I was all ready to deliver a there's-nothing-shameful-about-it-stop-with-the-blood-curse-bullshit-already smack down.

But it is icky. And I would have the same reaction if it were semen. There are things that are not shameful, and then there are things that I would like on my wall. Anything that comes out of a body belongs in the first category, and not so much the second.

Besides, I hear they're doing wonderful things with acrylics nowadays.

On preview: I really disagree with you, posey. Men have pretty much always been squicked out by menstrual fluids. We can have that blood curse discussion if you want. Women shouldn't contribute to that by acting all head-hangy, but I think that the discomfort is primarily on the male side.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 8:14 PM on November 8, 2002

I hear they're doing wonderful things with acrylics nowadays.

They are, but these little arabesques would still be rotten in acrylic.

Eh, who cares? When the Tate Gallery buys a can of crap and calls it "art", can piss paintings, orphotgraphs of bowel movements be far behind?

I bet these are the world's only "scratch and sniff" paintings, though.
posted by hama7 at 9:03 PM on November 8, 2002

Damn it: a can of crap!
posted by hama7 at 9:06 PM on November 8, 2002

Does it come with biohazard stickers? I can also hear anyone who buys one saying "honey, it's that time of the month and you need to take the bathroom trash more often". No sweetie--it's our new *artwork* you smell hanging over the sofa.
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 9:59 PM on November 8, 2002

I didn't look at these paintings earlier on account of ewww.

But these aren't bad! Surprisingly. Except for the titles which are nearly as gross as the medium. I mean, who names their paintings "Diamond Fire"?

i think what oogs me out here is that most of one's menstrual flow isn't blood, but tissue.

Ah! So she paints in impasto.

Oh, god. I think I've discovered the Metafilter diet. *runs to bathroom*
posted by furiousthought at 10:10 PM on November 8, 2002

Oh, for heaven's sake. She says, in one of the comment sections,

...I do add acrylic gloss thickener to my blood that I collect from my keeper. Acrylic gives the benefit of preservation over time for both texture and color.

There is no odor, period. I do not let the blood sit out more than a couple of minutes. Fresh blood flow doesn't smell because it is still a liquid with no interaction with the air yet. The paintings quickly dry completely odor free. In fact, the acrylic stinks and I must contend with its odor now.

Which answers quite a few of your questions, no?

This is a great thread, though. I read part of (and for the record, mostly disagreed with) Mary Daly's Gyn/Ecology recently, and I enjoyed seeing more on ecofeminism and the female trinity.
As for the need for time off from work/school/life--yes! Some women feel perfectly fine during their periods, some are totally incapacitated for the first couple days, and some never know from one cycle to the next. It is unpredictable, out of our control, and believe me, it is embarrassing as hell to have to explain to the campus medical escort whose procedures don't cover sudden, hormonally-induced illness. The whole thing calls for a BUUUHHH!

However, I admit I now have absolutely no desire to finish that bottle of raspberry juice sitting in my fridge.
posted by hippugeek at 2:11 AM on November 9, 2002

thats just asking to be at the heart of a CSI script. mannn, eww.
posted by Dome-O-Rama at 10:30 AM on November 9, 2002

Why celebrate something that hurts bad enough to require Vicodin just to get any sleep at all during that "special week", and is so unmanageably heavy that I can't leave the house, even wearing adult diapers?

The only solution short of hysterectomy is hormones, which I must say have improved my quality of life beyond what I thought possible. I've got only a few more years to go until menopause, at which time I will be delighted to be rid of periods forever.

Menstruation isn't a celebratory event for a great many women, myself included. It's a painful burden and a messy niusance. I'm thrilled that this artist finds a surge of creativity and free art materials where I found only excruciating pain and blood loss severe enough to make me anemic.
posted by filifera at 10:48 AM on November 11, 2002

how would you feel if the art was done with sperm?

That'd be less Kandinsky, more Malevich.</obscure>

Same amount of ook-factor?

Is that what it means? I've been posting under false pretences all this time...
posted by ook at 11:01 AM on November 11, 2002

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