Seminar – ‘Crimson Waves’ – Art, Menstruation and Emotion

Camilla Rostvik
(University of St Andrews)

Bio: Camilla Rostvic is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of Art History working on her project, ‘’The Painters Are In’ – The Art History of Menstruation’ explores the art history and visual culture of menstruation since 1950, and investigates the way art and advertising intersect as menstrual taboos and ideas change in the 20th and 21st centuries. The project will involve organising a menstrual conference, and working towards journal publications and a monograph.

Abstract: Since the 1960s, a small number of artists have explored menstruation and menstrual blood in their work. Creating their art at a time when menstrual product advertising proliferated, these works resulted in very emotional responses. In the Women’s Liberation Movement, these ‘bloodworks’ were often discussed and praised, whereas mainstream culture saw a steady increase of sanitised blood-less visual depictions of menstruation – through advertising and product design. In the late-twentieth century, artist such as Judy Chicago, Carolee Schneeman, Ana Mendiata and Frida Kahlo were joined in the ‘menstrual canon’ by a generation of young women, queer and non-binary artists. This new group also used blood to create art, but this resulted in radically different emotions and responses. First banned by institutions such as Instagram and Facebook, their work was rapidly seen as counter-culture expressions of feminist dissent, and have since been celebrated and institutionalised throughout the traditional art world. Since 2015, these artists have also found their work increasingly referenced, and sometimes ‘borrowed’, by a new generation of menstrual product ‘femvertising’. This paper asks what we are to make of the complicated emotional networks between menstruation, art and advertising, and argues that visual literacy is increasingly important as the lines blur between activists and capitalists in this sector.

Wednesday, 12th December 2018, 12.45 pm – 2.00 pm
Venue: LG8, Keppel Street Building