What inspired you to start the menstrual diaries?
Originally I was just curious to see what my blood would look like on paper. When I started creating these drawings I began to think about what I was really doing, and how it could tie into the ideas and concepts I wanted to convey. There’s so much stigma around menstruation, and it’s really such a normal thing. I wanted to put something out there that would help women feel like they could be more open and comfortable with themselves and their natural bodily processes.
When did you decide to create paintings using your own period blood?
I’ve been using a diva cup for a couple of years, and I’ve often thought about using the blood for an art project, but I was never sure how to start. I wanted to utilize the material and a few months ago I began to use my own blood as a sort of watercolor paint. At the time, I didn’t realize what the project was going to evolve into, but since then I’ve been making paintings every month and plan to complete a series over the course of this year.
Have you ever felt insecure about your periods? If so, how did you break away from that insecurity?
Yes, I have yet to meet a woman who hasn’t felt insecure about her period! In our society, periods are such a shameful secret; people aren’t supposed to know when someone’s on her period. Exhibiting this art – letting the world know each month that I’ve had a period and this is the physical, visceral result – is a good way for me to combat this societal shame and secrecy.
Why do you think women may feel insecure about their periods?
When you’re on your period, it’s always in the back of your mind. You can’t forget about it, it makes you anxious. In our culture, I think women tend to be seen as more neurotic, more plan-oriented, more organized or uptight, and the fact that we have to make sure we’re prepared to deal with period problems at any time could factor into that. You can’t be as spontaneous if you have to plan around the fact that you’re bleeding, especially when it’s something that has to be dealt with furtively.
Why do you think it's important to use art as a way to combat menstrual taboos?
Allison Lee Felt is a Melbourne based artist and photographer originally from San Francisco, California. She loves to experiment with different art forms and often focuses on naturally occurring patterns and the human body. She received a Bachelor's Degree in Studio Art with distinction from Whitman College, and has exhibited her work internationally. She is passionate about seeing the world, feminism and dark chocolate.
Art has a way of communicating basic ideas that is both direct and visceral. Its power is in conveying a message that can be understood without explanation. With this project, I aim to spread messages about body positivity and individuality in a way that people will internalize. By using my blood as a medium, I hope to normalize menstruation and make way for a new perspective on periods, as a celebration rather than a secret. I would like to empower women, strengthen them and support their activism.
How do you take ownership of your health fearlessly and unapologetically?
Through acceptance and appreciation of the beautiful variety of human bodies. I truly value the wide array of shapes and sizes of bodies, and believe that we shouldn’t aspire to conform to a set of norms. Let’s be comfortable with body parts that are usually covered and natural processes that are usually hidden. Women’s bodies are frequently shrouded in secrecy, unless they’re shown in a sexual context. Women’s body parts are often presented in art as beautiful delicate flower petals, or sexually charged objects. It’s true that women’s bodies are beautiful, but they’re also strong, powerful, and real. The period is a completely natural and healthy process, something no woman should be ashamed of.
What does using your own period blood mean to you and what do you hope it will mean to others. What is your message?
By using my own blood I feel more connected to my art, since it literally came out of my body. I hope that this project will help others to see the beauty and normality of menstruation, and remind them to appreciate, cherish, and be comfortable with their own bodies exactly as they are.