Years ago, some of my first serious art pieces were about the experiences of giving birth. I was intrigued by what happens when you merge a personal life event with the medical file that accompanied it. Red ink flowed onto thick paper while a crisp pen scribbled medical notes onto a bleached-out body.
Those early pieces are now lost to me – distant both in time and space.
But embodied experiences remain a constant source of inspiration. Yet our perception of the body is far from constant. For our body exists in different realms – shifting between lived experiences and medical observations, defined by culture and dominated by history. And so my visual recordings of the individual flutter and fluctuate – weaving their way across time.
Today, medical quotes and observations of the female body – hammered out on my old type writer – interfere with delicate body parts rendered in glass and porcelain. Tomorrow these pieces may be repositioned and take on new meaning.
Only a short while ago, I collected narratives about menstruation – now I am making work about the menopause. Both were traditionally taboo subjects. And both are decidedly female hormonal experiences. In the private sphere these experiences are often suffered in silence, in the public they are ignored or suppressed – and within the medical community the “unruly” female body continues to cause a dilemma.
Because of this I have taken great pleasure in exhibiting sanitary towels cast in kiln formed glass. With edges sharp as nails and red colours flowing through them, they are the embodiment of lived experiences – at the same time beautiful and disturbing.
Hidden lives and untold stories feature heavily in my work. Displayed on plinths, assembled in cabinets and hung on the wall the silent stories become visual – elevated and treated as objects of beauty; Scars, which were disguised and covered up for years, are now exposed and cast in exquisite pure white porcelain – displayed on plinths. Surgery, health and body image is explored in work about mastectomies. Placed on the wall, it is no longer possible to ignore the body in transition.
The relentless quest to challenge and explore what defines us continues.
Our sense of self – what is it really?
The more private aspects of our lives are often crowded out as culture interferes and medical descriptions intervene – context defines us far more than we realise. And yet throughout time we remain anchored in our body.
But as my body changes so does my body of work.
My journey began with personally experiences of motherhood – interlaced by cultural expectations and medical descriptions. This self-same journey is now taking me towards explorations of ageing. As I am entering another stage in my life I become aware of taboos which are distinctly separate to the ones I stumbled across and fought against as a younger woman. And I am looking forward to exposing some of them – yet again making the unseen visual – and allowing silent voices to be heard. More: www.charlotteartworld.com Instagram:@charlotteartworld
Charlotte has a background in both psychology and fine art. She worked as a counsellor/therapist for more than 16 years and this experience echoes through her visual work. She has an MA in printmaking from ARU and has done post-graduate studies in glass at Central Saint Martins.
She exhibits regularly in the UK and showed in an international glass exhibition in Denmark in 2014. In recent years she has undertaken art residencies at local institutions, and she has worked in collaboration with a variety of scientists from Cambridge on short projects combining art and science.
A long-term collaboration with another artist has led to several exhibitions exploring the lives of Everyday Women.
My work is firmly anchored in physical experiences – of who we are and what we may become. It includes pieces about conception, breastfeeding, surgery, menstruation and the menopause. Medical images become embodied, personal and medical narratives fuse together – text and images collide.
I write text pieces about menstruation and poems about the menopause. I write about body image and make interactive books. All of which informs my visual practice and sits alongside it.
List of works
But it’s not an Illness
Mooncups made in stained porcelain, elevated and paraded on a Perspex “plinth”, intercepted by text pieces based on menstrual experiences.
Wrappers with typewritten text, alongside two heavily stained porcelain sanitary towels. Seen through a layer of sanitary towels cast in glass. Sharp glass edges and fragile materials echo embodied experiences in this “Menstrual Cabinet” display.
Not in Public
Nipple shields made in shades of coloured glass are paraded in an old cutlery tray that used to hold precious silver pieces. Torn between opposing messages, cultural expectations, and reality – what is a woman to do?
Photogram foetus; Make Believe
Hovering between real and imagined, a kiln formed glass object has been transformed into an artificial image resembling a medical scan. It questions our relationship with medical images and the emotional attachment we often invest in them.
Medical image Embodied
Foetal representations in glass – transparent yet present as if a medical image has taken form. Placenta and foetus made in kiln formed glass – inspired by medical images.
A discarded pile of personal narratives related to the menopause contain a myriad of hidden, and often contradicting, stories. Set in torn earthenware, they are a fusion between lived experiences and societal attitudes to the menopausal woman. The individual statements were collected online and in person. This is an ongoing project.
It’s all About the Ovaries
Women’s identity and place in society has historically been linked to ovarian activity.
An anatomical uterus reproduced in precious glass has sharp and painful edges. It is offset by medical quotes about the menopause. The text piece which contains historical and contemporary sources is both brutally ignorant and succinctly empathic. It has been typewritten onto frail, perishable tissue paper – and as such it appears far less permanent than the ovary itself.
The Ages of Woman
Physical transformation, change and variety is expressed through form, colour and text. Three ceramic pieces inspired by internal scans and medical descriptions of the uterus emphasise how different one organ can appear. During the process of making, words such as reduced, dilated, bleeding, torn, constructed, repaired and contracted came to mind.
From Mom Egg Review vol. 12 (2014)
by Kristin Roedell
Blood in the bath slips
away from a woman
whose monthly seeping
is bound to the moon
with a crimson ribbon.
Her child, astray,
is a pause, a pearl,
a drop of rain.
its soul leaves with a cloud
of dragonflies beyond
the Cedar River.
The cistern alongside the house
is full of rain. She drinks a ladle full
to take back what is
lost. Her husband’s breathing
colors the night blue.
Herself astray, she curls
beneath his sleeping arm.
In the morning she tells him no
more than the eddy at the edge
of the river, or the silent
Kristin Roedell is the author of Seeing in the Dark (Tomato Can Press), and Girls with Gardenias, (Flutter Press). Her work has been published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Switched on Gutenberg, and CHEST. She is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Web nominee, winner of NISA’s 11th Annual Open Minds Quarterly Poetry Contest, and a finalist in the 2103 Crab Creek Review poetry contest. http://cicadas-sing.ucoz.com/
The Museum of Motherhood, the ProCreate Project, the Mom Egg Review, and the Mother Magazine are pleased to announce the launch of a bi-monthly international exchange of ideas and art. M.A.M.A. will celebrate the notion of being “pregnant with ideas” in new ways. This scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the creative, the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. Download the Press Release here or read about updated initiatives. #JoinMAMA @ProcreateProj @MOMmuseum @TheMomEgg