Updated: Sep 16, 2020
I've made a lot of work over the past year and a half. I've felt compelled to, driven by an intense need that has dominated my life in a way that art never has before. I've come to realize that my very survival as a human being rests upon self expression, mark making, and involving myself in creativity. When I don't create I lose myself to my illnesses, both mental and physical. I don't have to show it to anyone, I don't need to prove productivity, and it doesn't have to be good, useful, or pretty. It merely must be made.
I remember making this image. It took about two or three shoots to get here, and it was one of the last shoots that I had staged for Vessel. It also happens to be the last image in the book, a baptism in blood, or in this case, beet juice.
Beets have historically been symbols of sexuality, and in some cases, fertility. Bunches of beets would be hung in brothels or given to newly weds. Even in contemporary times they are toted in some circles as a way to boost fertility due to their ability to increase blood flow and high levels of anti-oxidants.
Having a largely eastern European heritage I was also interested in the regional importance of beets. Being 4th generation from Polish immigrants on my mother's side, I'm interested in cultural food traditions from the area. There is a history of health issues along my family tree and I wanted to pay homage to the women in my family.
Shooting this image was a cold, messy affair. Emulsifying the beets and allowing the liquid and solids to sit in the fridge overnight left them congealed, and also frigid. The splatter from it could barely be contained in the small 3 foot studio I had rigged in my bedroom. Each time I poured the beets down my face I shoved the involuntary gasp down into my stomach and relaxed into the discomfort.
In a way creating this image was similar to the experience of disregarding my gut instincts for years prior to my hysterectomy. Whether it was doctors, partners, or friends, I tended to set aside my own personal feelings to meet their expectations and believe the narratives they had set for me about my health, relationships, and identity.
I have bled enough for a lifetime. On average I bled for 13 days at a time, often with only a week or 10 days in between bleeding. Before my hysterectomy I had bled for more than half of the year. It seemed fitting that I would allow myself a rebirth through the symbolism of blood and labor.
Vessel is not the end to my anger, challenges, or work. I feel the anger more often than not boiling under my skin. There is immense trauma that sits within my body that I have a long road to walk alongside. All I can do is continue.