Mod & Viky Cardenas
In our culture the menstrual cycle is seen as something that should remain unspoken about, it is a taboo, something to be ashamed of and a sign of shame. Being aware of extreme situations were girls are not even permitted to go to school by their parents when they are menstruating and seeing how most women are extremely ashamed by the fact that they menstruate brought the conclusion that there is a really big problem regarding something so natural and special as the menstrual cycle, and that awareness should be raised and women everywhere need to be free from repressive stigmas brought by the constant instruction generation from generation of how menstruation is something “bad”. In cultures like ours where there is a strong “macho culture” this kind of situations led to the degradation of females of all ages and create a gap between real equality. The art pieces reflect that “generational silence” past down from mother to daughter and the “life stigma” most women are forced to live with, the intent of the art is to bring a reality to as many people as possible and demonstrate a sad truth and by the same time, hopefully, raise questions and give the spectator a chance to reformulate certain paradigms and begin change.
This series explores the reinvention of a woman’s reproductive and sexual identity. The images display what is very much a part of everyday life. The color for this series was chosen to serve as an allusion to the pastels that are used for the marketing menstrual products; very soft pinks, blues, purples, and oranges. I adopted the characteristics way marketing agencies present menstruation, but use it in a way that can show beauty in something that is traditionally regarded as slightly repugnant. The juxtaposition of pleasant colors and uncensored presentation of flesh and blood is essential to the images. In this way, my hope is to demonstrate that flesh, blood, and normal bodily process, can be perceived as something beautiful.
“52 Ladies at Tea” came from an emotional place. That is, I didn’t begin with the intention to produce it, but was led by the piece itself. Production of the work began a discourse with women I knew and new ones I met about how they felt about their vulva and their sexuality. Response to the work, that of the models and the audience becomes part of the work.
It has long discomforted me that society shames (us) women when we make choices for ourselves regarding our bodies and our sexuality. Our bodies belong to us. It is our right to choose for ourselves. Choose when we want to have sex and with whom, if and when we want to marry, and if, when and with whom we want to bear children. Indeed these decisions belong to individual women. They do not belong to our fathers or our husbands or our lovers. We choose. For women there is a great deal of power in sexual autonomy.
Shame has long been used as a tool to control women’s sexual expression (and our behavior in general). This project is an investigation into the shame we women internalize about our bodies and our sexualities in order to survive in patriarchy. Some people may well feel that in North America, after so many decades of feminism that we are well beyond feeling this sort of shame, but I beg to differ with those people and encourage them to look at things from a more global perspective rather than an ethnocentric one. Currently we live in a global cultural climate wherein some countries, women are undergoing involuntary female infibulation while others are ‘voluntarily’ paying to have surgery on their vulvae so that their genitals will look ‘prettier’, a standard that has been set by heavens knows what, but certainly the criterion has nothing to do with reality or love.
For more information, visit www.wideningthecycle.com. For questions, please email the curator and exhibit planner, Jen Lewis, at info [at] wideningthecycle [dot] com.