“We have been told how to look, how to dress, how to act, how our bodies should be shaped for an eternity and it is so exhausting and debilitating. Enough. As you say, a rebellion! It is time we took back our bodies in the fullest sense–including pride in our bellies. When I swallow my anger and outrage and fear and sadness, it is stored in my belly. What an amazing thing. Maybe it’s time to just be thankful for it rather than ashamed.”
The women who wrote these words to me, (she asked me not to use her name) was standing next to me, in the rain, sharing an umbrella with her daughter, as we watched the Sister’s of the Shawl dancing in the rain at the Bedlam Farm Open House.
She was reacting to the piece I wrote about Bellydancing being my power and rebellion. She wrote so well what I was feeling, I wanted to share it.
I hadn’t thought about the idea of swallowing our anger and fear and storing it in our bellies. But that makes sense to me. Our bellies are a vessel for so much. Lets fill them with good things.
Taking back our bodies, is a basic step in making changes in the world around us. I need to be strong within myself if I’m going to reach outside of myself.
Yesterday I wrote about the last Bedlam Farm Open House.
But I think I didn’t make my self clear. It doesn’t mean we’re never going to be having some kind of event at Bedlam Farm again. It means that Jon and I are reimaginig the idea of the Open House.
There are some elements to the Open House that work, some parts of it that are what it’s really all about. And in talking about it, it seems that Jon and I have different experiences with the Open House.
I spend most of my days in my gallery selling art. Jon spends most of his time meeting and talking to people.
For me, I’ve found that I spend too much energy doing the physical labor of setting up and breaking down my studio, so it can work as a gallery. I’ve also find myself focusing more than I want to on worrying about selling art and making enough money to make the whole weekend worthwhile financially.
So for me it’s become less about creativity and encouragement and more and more about money.
But that’s not what either Jon or I want for the Open House.
So we’re thinking of new ways to make it work.
We understand that most of our audience is online, and we don’t want to leave them out of the process. Instead of having everyone have to come to us, we’re thinking of ways to bring the open house to everyone.
I want to take the things that work in the Open House now and find something new for the space that is created from the things we don’t want to do anymore.
What I see right now, and I’m sure this will evolve, is Bedlam Farm being a place where artists come for the weekend and demonstrate how they do their work. Just like Rachel Barlow and Sara Kelly did this past weekend, painting and making a digital woodcut.
Some demonstrations would go thought the day and others might be for a limited amount of time, depending on the artist and their work.
We would have sheep shearing and herding and visits with the donkeys. There would be time for people who came to see the artists to talk to them, ask questions and have a conversation. And there would be time for Jon and me to do the same.
I see my studio open as a working studio. Me working there sporadically throughout the day. We would still have poetry reading, maybe more than one, more spontaneous and in smaller groups. Maybe even people could bring their own poetry to share with some of the other poets.
I’d love the have the Sister’s of the Shawl back. I’m hoping by then to dance a slow dance with them. Kathleen told me she thought I was ready this weekend, but it felt like too much pressure to me. If the Open House had this new format, perhaps that would make it easier for me to dance.
It would be nice to have food and music too.
I wouldn’t sell art, but people would be encouraged to visit the to blogs, websites and Etsy Shops of the artist working at the farm. It’s an easier and more democratic was of selling the art. This way everyone has a chance to buy art directly from each artist.
And, so that everyone could be a part of it whether they were at the farm or not, we would live stream the whole weekend.
I’m picturing a festival of creativity. A sharing of inspiration. Bedlam Farm lit up with creative sparks.
So it may be the end of the Bedlam Farm Open House as we know it, but it’s also the beginning of something new.
I have to decide which sheep will be shorn at the Open House. Their wool is growing in, but because we had them shorn so late in the summer, not all of the have long enough wool to be made into yarn.
Nicole, who watches our animals and is our Vet Tech, will be helping with the shearing this year while I’m working in my School House Gallery. Liz, our new shearer, who is really impressive to watch, she has a special way with sheep, will be shearing around 1pm on Saturday, October 7th (it’s always a little tricky to get an exact time with a shearer).
Last year, we had a hard time getting the sheep in the barn and keeping them there. The gates were bulging with the weight of people leaning on them and the sheep trying to escape. This year our new gates, that we just had made, will keep everyone in their place.
Everyday, it seems, something changes about what’s going on at the Bedlam Farm Open House in October.
Yesterday I decided that we will have the sheep shorn, that most of their wool will be long enough in another month. I’ve changed the information on the poster that Sara Kelly is designing for us, so many times, I’m surprised at how gracious she is about it.
There are a few things I don’t have to figure out or worry will change. And Jane McMillen being at the Open House is one of them.
She’s in full creative mode, making all kinds of soft sculpture pincushions.
Jane wrote about her pincushions and the Open House on her blog Little House Home Arts. She explains the history of the Penny-rug style. That’s the style she makes the snail and butterfly pincushions in the photo above.
In her blog post Jane writes:
“For those that are not familiar with penny-rug style art. It originated in the 1800’s. People would make penny-rugs out of old wool garments. People actually wiped their feet on them before entering the house. Each rug was made of circular medallions using coins as templates and appliqued them to a wool mat using a blanket stitch. Each medallion had a penny sewn inside of them, hence the name penny rug. This kept the mat durable and heavy enough to stay put. As the individual wool circular medallions wore out, they would be replaced with others to keep the mat functional.”
Needless to say, I’m partial to the snail pincushion which Jane made in honor of my snail Socrates.
Her Penny-rug pincushions are all “one-of-a-kind in design, hand-appliqued, and hand-embroidered felted wool pincushion.”
Jane has more photo’s of her pincushions, you can see them and read what she has to say about them all, here.
For more info on the Bedlam Farm Open House October 6th-7th click here.
“I’d love to hand these out at the Women’s March on Washington next January” Nancy, my chiropractor, said to me when I showed her a picture of my Flying Vulva.
She was as excited about it as I was. I left her office feeling better, and not just because my back was pain-free. When I got back to my car, I saw the message from Jon. “Call me” it said, he too was excited about something.
Someone had suggested to him the idea that the Jesus Fish, the symbol of Christianity, was originally a Goddess symbol of fertility, the Vagina.
Of course, I thought, picturing the fish I’ve seen mostly on the backs of cars. Standing on its tail, that fish is the shape of a vagina.
I read the article “Vagina Power and the History of Christian Symbols” that Jon sent me. (He was so excited about it, he wrote about it too, you can read that here). It reaffirmed what I had read and heard many times before, the first time in my Art History Classes.
The early Christians took the symbols of the pagan cultures that came before them and gave them new meaning to fit their needs and beliefs. It makes sense. They were trying to convert people who had worshiped the Goddess and her religion of fertility and rebirth, into believing that a male God was the creator of life.
That’s not an easy thing to do when all evidence proves otherwise.
People still had the Virgin Mary to worship, but she had been stripped of her life creating powers as a woman, as her name implies.
So I was thinking about the Goddess and the fish, and an image from my Language of the Goddess book by Marija Gimbutas, the well know archeologist and historian, came to mind. I leafed though the book by there she was.
A reproduction of The Goddess with the fish as womb depicted on an ancient vase.
Water was one of the first images drawn on pottery and figures. It represents birth and life. The zig-zag was a symbol of this, but so were fish and waterbirds. Some of these images go back 30,000 years.
Once I thought about it, the fish symbol, like the spiral, was all over ancient art.
Gimbutas refers to it as the fish/uterus symbol. In earlier times there is actually a Fish Goddess, but over the centuries the fish became interchangeable with the uterus and life-giving fluids.
Then along come the Christians who flip the “fish” on its side, taking away its visual connection to the vagina. It’s still recognizable enough at first, but over time its true meaning of the Goddess and her life-giving force is lost.
So the woman’s body, which was once seen as sacred and was worshiped, becomes something base, something to be ashamed of in the Christian religion. Women lose their power to a God who creates man in his own image and women become an evil temptation.
This, all of this, is why my Flying Vulva is such an important symbol to me.
It’s part of reclaiming that Goddess power, for all women, that’s been lost for so long. Personally, it’s about me finding my voice in images and words and speaking my truth.
It’s about taking back the fish.
Standing her back on her tail and giving her wings to spread her new message of women’s freedom, strength and power.
But there were enough comments from women who were upset or disgusted by them that I wanted to write more about them and those feelings.
Linda sent me this video of Tami Lynn Kent’s Ted Talk about the shame women often feel about their bodies. So I wanted to share it with all of you.
Kent talks about turning Shame to Honor.
It was when she talked about menstruation that I started to cry, a sure sign that what she was saying was something I needed to hear and address.
Earlier in the week, Lisa wrote to me and said “I see your [Flying Vulva] potholders as a symbol of women rising up and leaving oppression behind.”
Women have been oppressed in so many ways over the centuries. And shame is one of the great oppressors.
I feel like the healing that women and men have to do concerning women and their bodies is beginning to happen all around us. An important part of this healing is acknowledging what we feel and being able to express and understand it.
I see my Flying Vulva’s, in what ever form they take, as a part of that healing. For me personally in creating them and not being afraid to put them out into the world (something I would have been afraid to do for most of my life. But also as a healing message of women’s freedom, strength and power.