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‘History Bearing’ Project

By rowena on November 12, 2010 | Category: Blog | No Comments

This first blog is to give you an insight into my thoughts and how the series History Bearing was conceived. Next blog will introduce the stories. I will do one per week…… Exhibition opening Sydney College of the Arts, Wednesday December 8, 6pm. Gallery 2.

I will announce this in one blog with address 2 weeks prior to opening.

Cheers, Rowena.

Introduction – History Bearing

The body of work, History Bearing, has aspired from, at its earliest beginnings, my very strong interest in violence towards women and the relationship of this global travesty to religious teachings on women and their bodies. This interest was further fuelled by a deeper awareness gained through a text by Serenity Young, An Anthology of Scared Texts By and About Women, which opened my eyes to the fact that across the four most dominating global religions, (Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism), the teachings relating to women all perceived women as inferior, in one way or another, especially in relation to their fertile bodies.

At this time in 2006, I was considering the attention being paid to religion in the media and the many communities here and abroad that were living in unison with religious practices and teachings. I found it hard to ignore the connection between religion, the current status of women and the continual battle for women to be safe and heard.

On International Women’s Day, March 8 2006, a speech given by the Head of Amnesty International, Irene Khan, outlined the size of the problem of violence against women, and aligned it equally to apartheid being driven by the inaction of global communities and, as she states, “The tendency by family, friends, neighbours and religious leaders is to tolerate, condone or turn one’s eyes away.” At this point I decided to respond through my art practice and became interested in the role art may have played in condoning these doctrines throughout art history and set about researching this.

However, once beginning to research this area I was struck by the lack of the pregnant form in historical depictions of women in western art history. I became more aware of how, throughout western art history, the concept of woman had been consistently expressed in the arts (theatre, literature and fine art) interacting and weaving alongside and within the confines of politics and religion. However, even though historical social confines of women (at least up until the late 60’s of the 20th century) were traditionally restrictive in nature to keep women dignified (and in place), many visual works depicted nude women but very rarely pregnant women. I found that when there were depictions of pregnant women, modern art theorists disputed whether this was the case and further censored the pregnant body by denying that pregnant looking subjects were indeed pregnant. I feel that there is an alignment between the censorship of the pregnant form, religion and continued violence towards and control over women and their bodies.

Having photographed the pregnant body for some 15 years, I’ve become very aware at how seldom the pregnant body is explored as an art form today and in art historically. Hence, it made sense to change my conceptual direction (focusing on religion) and concentrate on the omission of the pregnant body in art history and set out to create a body of work that at least attempts to rectify these omissions with an air of respect but perhaps some humor as well.

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