This is a digital sketchbook of the work I have made throughout this term based on working towards final pieces and the degree show.
Book layout with textual context and reference to where the information was found:
Under the Snow Moon of 2022
Darkroom set up in an old cow shed, using large trays of chemicals to feed the moonlight exposed paper through
Lunaria, common name Honesty. The name Lunaria comes from the Latin for moon, luna, "because the seed of this plant has a figure approaching that of the moon, when it is in its full". The dried seed heads symbolise femininity, fertility, and to me, resemble sonogram/ultrasound/x-ray medical imagery.
Lunargram/Moon print process, filmed under the Pink Moon of 2022 in a patch of newly flowering cow parsley or Queen Anne's Lace
Some prints drying on the washing line
Until the 1800s, almost every abortion was performed with herbal medicine. Most of these herbal medicines were either made into a 'tea' and drunk, or a piece of cloth would have been soaked in the juices of the plants and inserted directly into the vagina. It wasn't until the 1970s that surgical abortion became more common and was considered safer. Previously, plant-based abortifacients were considered the safest and most effective solution when it came to terminating a pregnancy.
Abortifacients, when given in an appropriate dose, were known to cause the uterus to contract, causing a miscarriage. They were commonly used alongside emmenagogue herbs, also known as 'helpful herbs' such as mugwort, rue, and Queen Anne's Lace which encourage blood circulation to the uterus and bring on menstruation, serving as a contraceptive in the same way that the morning after pill does. It is thought that there are approximately 525 abortifacient plants and many of them have been proven effective within modern medicine. However, the incorrect dosage could be fatal, as most of these phytomedicines are actually just poison in small amounts.
A flower-like teacup that holds the power to kill
I have made a series of porcelain 'tea cups' to portray the domestic side of how these phytomedicines would have been ingested.
I chose to step away from the traditional teacup shape and make these almost flower like containers to mirror the plants from which the medicines come.
The edges of the hand-sculpted porcelain are beautifully thin, allowing light to pass through the translucent petals, however, they are also deadly sharp, like razor blades.
If anyone was to drink out of these, the edges would cut their lips. Perhaps another dark side note to something that may be considered beautiful.
Inside each container is a lunargram of a petri dish containing the bacteria from certain abortifacient or emmenagogue plants.
Gypsophila, Maiden's Tea, Artemisia, St. John's Wort, Pennyroyal, and Rue.
I used a waterslide decal method to transfer the lunargrams of the petri dishes on to a series of glass slides I had made. The thought process behind this is to contrast the ancient science of the herbal medicines and the science of modern medicine with microscopes, slides, petri dishes, x-rays, ultrasounds etc. I really like the translucent nature to these and the way light can pass through them and project the images. However I think I have come to the conclusion that these images work better inside the porcelain cups, but I want to experiment further with the translucency and transiency of the glass. I plan to look into printing on to acrylic/perspex.
Throughout this body of work, I have been thinking of ways to subtly touch upon the contrasts and connections between modern medicine and the history of these herbal abortifacients. All along I have felt that the images should be translucent in some way, I feel that the images made on the light-sensitive paper have a translucent and ghostly quality which I really wanted to build upon. Initially, I thought a translucent fabric might be the way forward, I felt this spoke to the methods that the herbal abortifacients were often taken, piece of cloth soaked in the juices of the plants and inserted directly into the vagina, but also to create a sort of veil and curtain-like I privacy curtain you might find in a doctors office or clinic now. Unfortunately, I don't think these initial tests were doing my work much justice so I started to consider other links between modern and ancient medicine. However, I hope to come back to these fabric ideas.
Because of the black and white skeletal quality of my images I started to consider printing them onto something transparent so subtly link to the scans, ultrasounds, x-rays, microscope slides of modern medicine. I have been working with ways to transfer the images onto perspex/acrylic/plexiglass as I really like the quality that the translucent nature lends to my work.
Lunaria Fennel and ancestor of the ancient abortifacient Silphium Queen Anne's Lace
Lunaria printed on to plexiglass
This really resembles a sonogram/ultrasound/x-ray to me, especially if you hold it up to the light like you would an x-ray scan.
Translucent waterslide decals on 10 x 10 cm glass slides
Degree show plan
These are all the pieces that I have made with the degree show in mind, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'll be exhibiting them all as I worry it might look cluttered. I think I will only know what looks best when it comes to the install.
A provisional exhibition plan
Large moon print on plexiglass
Approximately 180cm x 80cm
Ideally, I would like this leant against a wall, so it becomes an object itself and creates this negative space between the artwork an the wall. Also the plants on the image will be coming up from the ground as they do in real life.
Poem / Textual Context
Throughout creating this body of work, it has become apparent that the context is important. Without it, they're just pretty pictures, which is not the whole story that I want to tell. I want to display the images along side a written piece that is perhaps more creative than your regular project statement plaque on the wall. I want to write a piece of creative text that gives the work some context without being totally descriptive. It is a balance that I have struggled to find. I have been endlessly researching and experimenting with poetry, but it is still something that is very new to me, I feel very unsure and vulnerable about what I write, which I guess is a good thing.
I am planning for the poem to be printed onto a thin-ish translucent fabric, so that not only does it keep with the translucent transient nature of the work, but also links back to the cotton used when making these herbal suppositories. If hung against the wall it will move gently with the breeze as spectators move through the space, in a similar way the grass moves in the wind.
My poem so far (still totally a work in progress but it's a start)
laying in a bed of artemisia and cow parsley,
thin white traces of paper flowers
by the wayside, a pharmacopeia of the past
soaked silver by the moon,
thriving on the margins, wild and
lunar lunacy lunatic
a celestial body
cyclical and predictable
aligning only to be disassem
pennyroyal, tansy, rue
plucked from the edges
an emmenagogic bouquet
with ritual and
under the paper pallid light
sickle and sickly
a feverish sheen
brew and drink
Mini fabric tests for window hangings and text:
190cm x 73cm Plexiglass prints for windows in Woo366
If i have access to two of the windows in Woo366, I think maybe a white fabric hanging in one and a one of these plexiglass piece in the other.