Samera Paz has always been into art. Her personal Tumblr account is a compilation of black and white photos, bright hues here and there, and perfect lighting. She’s a 21-year-old who lives through photography and was featured in Dazed in late 2015, but Paz has been the talk of the art world with her new collection, “One Week Late.”
Sounds like a familiar saying, right?
Paz fittingly named her photo series awaiting her menstrual cycle, and used her menses as paint on a blank canvas to create her perception of art. Her first piece is a splattered portrait of dried blood created in hopes of destigmatizing women’s bodies and normalizing periods. In case you think she’s just a narcissistic millennial seeking attention for her work, Samera drops a little knowledge on her Instagram account about the origins of “period paintings.”
Menstrual blood piece for my 'One Week Late' collection. Part of my usage of blood is to show an unwanted truth and erase the negative stigmas we have about something as normal as periods. I believe using bodily fluids in artwork began about 35,000 years ago in cave drawings ~ I use what I got and I refuse to limit myself. The beginning stages of this piece was to show relief and anticipation, hence the title of this collection.
She also tells Cosmo, when a delayed period finally arrived, she was “relieved and full of so much emotion.”
“The urge to create something was present and I instantly knew what I had to do. Periods are natural and what better way to normalize them than use it as a medium. I want people to feel something when they see my work. It could be disgust, joy, inspired or confused...just as long as they feel something.”
My way of normalizing periods and turning blood that would just be discarded into something I consider beautiful ⭕️ pic.twitter.com/6c3SaQ8VER — Samera Flowers (@nahpeach) February 3, 2016
And her controversial pieces, which debuted on Instagram and Twitter, have definitely made both men and women feel everything from inspired, curious, outraged and queasy. A recent BuzzFeed poll showed readers agreed that it was art, but her social media accounts reveal how nasty (no pun intended) people have been to her. She’s been called racial slurs and told to die, all because of art. Others have questioned if periods even needed normalizing and if this was simply a need to be more “woke” than everyone else. Is it radical acceptance or is it a cry for attention?
But the artist isn’t the first to get people talking about the boundaries in art.
In 2013, Casey Jenkins introduced the world to vaginal knitting as her way “to address taboos surrounding female genitals” for her performance art piece “Casting Off My Womb.” For 28 days, the Australian artist knitted wool out of her vagina–yes, even through her menstrual cycle.
Then just last year, Kiran Gandhi ran the 26.2 mile London marathon without a tampon, soaking her pants all in the name of shifting the narrative on womanhood. She wrote about her experience on her website, saying:
“I ran the whole marathon with my period blood running down my legs. I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who don’t have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn’t exist. I ran to say, it does exist, and we overcome it everyday.”
There’s a method to the madness (or mess), but some may think that it's going too far! All three women, despite the backlash of how they chose to send a message, have stuck by their beliefs that they’re defying the norm and breaking barriers with their art.
So, what’s more important: the message or the messenger? Weigh in below with your thoughts on using menstrual blood for art.