Despite hearing horror stories about periods when she was growing up, Amercian artist Skylar Taylor has always been fascinated with menstruation. She herself had sporadic periods, bleeding only three times a year until the age of 20 when a change in her diet led to a normal cycle. Taylor: ‘For me, bleeding every month makes me feel like a woman. It’s my proof of potential procreation and evolution. Something I find myself proud of, even though it’s very painful and I feel my whacky hormones.’
A gift of blood
Now a 4th year studio art undergrad at Louisiana Tech University, for her senior thesis exhibition Taylor is making a piece on menstrual bleeding. This artwork is inspired by ancient period traditions she discovered in the book Womb Awakening. One of her favourite stories talks about how menstrual blood is considered sacred and magical in some primitive cultures. The first period is an empowering and promising gift. One would bleed on a cloth and gift it to an elder in the village for a magical blessing of healing. Another story speaks of bleeding together: all the menstruating women would gather and everyone else in the village would tend to them, relieving them from pressures of sex and domestic responsibilities.
Women were respected for bleeding
In other words: bleeding was seen as proof of power for creation, something women were honoured and respected for. Taylor: ‘I think this sounds lovely and logical. To exist somewhere where menstruating is treated with compassion! Although periods can really suck sometimes, they’re necessity in the process of life and birth and evolution. Therefore I believe it shouldn’t be something that’s looked at with disgust or shame. It can actually contribute to essential scientific research, as recently studies have proved there’s a substantial amount of adult stem cells in our menstrual blood. ’ Menstruation should be claimed, looked at and felt proud of, the way the women in those primitive cultures did. And that’s where Taylor’s senior thesis exhibition comes in.
Marked with menstrual blood
The finished artwork will be a circular wooden frame, stained with gold to symbolise the wealth of life in the female body, with a centrepiece of teardrop shaped pieces of cloth. Each of these cloths will be marked with a single thumbprint of the individual’s menstrual blood. The teardrop shape represents fertility, creativity and the recognition of the emotional self. Taylor: ‘I’ve chosen cloth because of its primitive roots; it’s the first thing many of us bled on, and even still do. And what better way to be a part of something than to mark it yourself?’ The centrepiece will be framed by the spiral, which represents, among other things, unity – the coming together of everyone participating in the project. The title of the piece refers to the upside down triangle, the yoni (another term for vagina), representing the womb and the sensual nature of the female body.
Want to participate in menstrual art? Get involved!
Currently, the artist is looking for as many contributors as possible. Menstruators from all over the world who are over the age of 18 and want to be a part of this project, can participate. How? Get in touch by sending Skylar Taylor an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’ll ask for your mail address to send a teardrop shaped cloth and the instructions to stamp the centre of the cloth during your next menstruation. Then wait for it to dry, sign the back and then mail it back to her. All cloths will have to be in the mail by April 2020 as the project will be presented in May. If you have any questions beforehand, just send Skylar Taylor an email at email@example.com.