Meet the Glasgow art student who paints using her period blood
The Glasgow School of Art student tried to recreate ancient art
Jessica Cummin is a third-year student at Glasgow School of Art.
What sets her apart from everyone else, though, is that she’s created paintings using her menstrual blood in a bid to recreate ancient art. Unfortunately, this innovative idea has not come without public criticism.
She told The Tab that the “pretty grim” method by which she paints is to “literally take a paintbrush to” her vagina. She will occasionally use a tampon, too.
Unsurprisingly, Jessica has received mixed feedback from her peers and the public – some of them have had an issue with the fact the paintings have been made using her menstrual blood. The female menstruation cycle – something that’s completely natural to women, because it’s been happening to us every four weeks since we hit puberty – seems to be an extremely taboo topic for some.
Jessica said: “From previous publishings of my work, I’ve had every kind of insult thrown at me. I’ve become desensitised to the negative responses as a result of this. It’s exactly what I expected so I don’t mind too much as it sort of highlights what an issue menstruation is to some people.”
We asked Jessica to share her to share her inspiration, method of creation and future plans for her artwork which she created in her free time this year.
What inspired you to paint using your menstrual blood?
“I have a lot of pagan beliefs and was doing research into ancient cave paintings and sacrificial art. The blood from menstrual cycles I believe honours life and the power to create. Menstrual blood is an ethical blood sacrifice; it does not harm but celebrates life.
“In paganism, the moon is a very sacred symbol and represents the feminine, women have a really powerful relationship with blood and the moon – considering our monthly cycles are controlled by the moon. I find that fascinating!
“I also think art can be a medium to the spiritual – blood is representative of the person it comes from and by expressing your own creative ability and mixing it with the spiritual, your spiritual self becomes expressed in the piece.”
What are the paintings of and why?
“I tend to paint women in strong/wild poses or partaking in rituals. I like the idea of women harnessing their power and being liberated. I like to capture energy and movement in the images whilst not putting too much effort into perfecting the form as I feel that detracts from the energy in the work.”
Which is your favourite painting and why?
“I painted two women dancing at the moon on a large canvas and I felt that this painting captured a primal instinct within me that I was trying to convey. I have always had an image in my head of what the woman in her natural state would be, and I feel that she would be a naked, dancing and hairy creature who worships the moon and nature.”
What is the process you use to create your art using menstrual blood?
“It’s pretty grim, but I will sit and literally take a paintbrush to my vagina to top up the paint. Sometimes I will use a tampon. I want to start using a mooncup to collect my blood, however my form of contraception does not allow that which is a shame.”
Do you find it more difficult to create art work using your menstrual blood than oils/paints etc?
“I think the speed at which the blood dries make things very difficult. It is also a lot harder because there isn’t very much of it, so the paintings have to be very primitive and usually small.”
Do you enjoy painting with your menstrual blood more than oils, paints, etc.?
“I haven’t painted in such a long time so its not really comparable. The outcome is so different that I would never create similar work with other types of paint. In the past my paintings have been photorealistic and slow to make, yet these are fast, inaccurate and use no reference.
“I enjoy the process more simply because it is faster and I can be lazy! I also go into a sort of meditative state when working with blood due to wanting to make it ceremonious, so in that respect it can be peaceful.”
What is the overall reaction you have received from friends/family/lecturers?
“It is a very mixed reaction. A lot of women, both family and friends, have been so on board with the work and have found it empowering to challenge a taboo. My male friends and family members are usually quite disgusted and don’t want to hear about it.”
How do you feel about the general reaction from the public?
“From previous publishings of my work, I’ve had every kind of insult thrown at me and have become desensitised to the negative responses as a result of this. It is exactly what I expected so I don’t mind too much as it sort of highlights what an issue menstruation is to some people.”
Do you have any future plans for artwork using your menstrual blood?
“I just want to carry on making quick studies with it for now. I am currently working on an installation piece that highlights a lot of issues in both my life and a woman’s life. The menstrual art will play into it, but there will be a variety of sculptural pieces, photographs and drawings that will tie the overall work together.”
Jessica’s artwork will be submitted with the rest of her coursework at the end of the academic year. She’ll hopefully remind the public that period blood is just blood – we all have it and it keeps us alive.
Jessica’s story is not the first period-related story to be in the news this year. A few years ago, a video of a girl appearing to eat a tampon went viral, and you’ve probably heard about last month’s phenomenon, the “meninist” who told girls to “hold their bladder”.
You can buy Jessica’s Artwork by emailing: [email protected]