Seasons of a Woman
SEASONS OF A WOMAN
Our Bodies, Our Lives & 12 Moments of Renewal
Centrespace Gallery, Bristol, 20-23 September 2015
Sunday 20 September 2015, 12noon – 3pm
You are cordially invited to the public opening of Seasons of a Woman.
This collective exhibition crowns a year-long cycle that saw 12 women step forward, one by one, and month after month, to reveal her personal body map and story of renewal (view by scrolling down).
Now all 12 of us are coming together at Centrespace Gallery in Bristol to share with you our life-size art which marks and celebrates a moment of profound change. A moment in which our identity as women shifts and re-awakens in our body to a fuller expression of who we are, what we do and what we have to say.
Deeply connected to the natural seasons, to physical, emotional and spiritual cycles as well as our culture(s) and society at large, Seasons of a Woman beautifully reveals how, deep down, we as women live in and through our bodies today.
During the Opening Event on Sunday 20th September you can also sign up for the free
Collective Body Mapping Experience on Monday 21st September (lunchtime 12noon – 1.30pm) The gallery will temporarily transform into a scared space in which you can experience the deeply affirming effect of having your body outline drawn and create your own unique mark of vitality.
The exhibition is open for general viewing from Monday 21 to Wednesday 23 September, daily 10am – 3pm.
AUGUST – Coming and Going
by Annette Schwalbe
My Body Map Story
Coming and Going
“Nothing ever remains the same. The seasons come and go. Past, present and future are constantly reconfigured, and I am always moving, too. Yet, the comings and goings are tied to each other in cycles that I know deep down.
I have created my body map over the course of one year, from September 2014 to August 2015, trailing the full cycle of Seasons of a Woman.
It is November and I see the leaves fall off the tree. I imagine their rustling sound as they gather on the ground. I remember the sound of the brown paper when I lay down in September to be traced. I lay on my back, my whole body in a curved shape like a bow, taut. One knee up and foot firmly grounded. The minute I got up from the floor to look at my outline it seemed to flip around: what I saw was my back. I had turned, the leg and foot now in mid-air, and I was leaving.
Into Thin Air
Winter has come and I am nursing a ruptured Achilles tendon exactly in the place on my body map where leg seems to vanish into thin air away from my right foot. How could this have been marked on paper two months before it happened? Two months in which I had been fascinated by my outline, looked at it, but didn’t touch it. Now immobilised by injury I start working on my map.
I keep it all in white. Frosted, soft, ethereal. I print with fallen feathers and bones as I put to rest my responsibilities as a therapist and let go what had become too much. Often I feel dizzy: What is it that I am turning towards? What if there is nothing and it is just a tale of loss? But as I reinforce my outline on paper, layer upon layer, I can feel my skin keeping me warm in the wintry cold.
To Land Back on Familiar and New Ground
I feel completely in step with spring. It is April, my tendon has healed well and I am walking again. I sense the rising sap within – how could I forget to trust it? I have decided to leave what has been my place of work for the past 6 years. It has become too small and too far from home. Two hands appear above my head on my body map. I feel received and blessed, and I know now what I am moving to: to join hands with more women. Together, we will ease back into life that which had been lost by injury to the feminine in our world. Body Mapping remains my path, the ground is new and bigger.
In the bright light of summer I look at the bird’s nest on my body map: a wound, an opening, now a home. The swallow is my namesake: ‘Schwalbe’ means swallow in German. It is a migratory bird, it comes and goes. She travels between different worlds according to the seasons. Summer is my time of homecoming. It is also the season in which I was born.
This is when I step out and forward with renewed purpose. The past is not forgotten: the sole of my foot carries the ashes, marks of blood and imprints of past ground. The new life tumbles from my head and clothes me with foliage. I don’t need to grab or hold onto anything. My hands are free, they tingle. Right now they are still at my side. But they tingle with anticipation: to reach out and forward to meet who wants to move with me.
JULY – Woman of Earth
by Sue Curtis
My Body Map Story
Woman of Earth
“My body map revealed itself over 5 years, starting with a diagnosis of a rare cancer that initially left me wheelchair bound. It journeys through pain, trauma and disability, 2 years of torturous treatments and finally rehabilitation.
Through movement explorations, deep listening and sensing I discovered strength in my vulnerability. Images revealed themselves, protective and bleeding dragons, Navaho bravery, and ultimately the challenge of believing I had it within me (literally the stem cells for transplant) to heal myself.
Placed within my Physio’s hands, I am framed by the hands of people who have supported me through this journey.
My body map has accompanied me through silent retreats, is a living prayer and portrays my place in God’s hands where I am whole.
The Woman of Earth image (bottom left) found words
Woman of earth what brings you here, to this long forsaken place where time long left this aching ground? Why sit you here? Nothing lives here; have you come here to die?
The woman of earth said nothing – she had no words. In truth she didn’t know why she had arrived in this desolate place, she only knew that she was exhausted from travelling and that her legs could journey no more.
And so her weary body crumpled beneath her, planting itself amidst the dust – knowing this was where it was meant to settle. So with nothing left to give she sat perched upon the dry, cracked earth and silently waited…..
The woman of earth waited for a long time, in silence, barely moving, just listening to the silence until, almost imperceptivity she reached out her hand and touched the earth and arching back she opened her soul.
A deep and haunting cry emerged from deep within her, echoing across the barren land – reverberating and resonating through the fragile cracks in the earth below her, then in silent stillness she began to weep and weep.
Her tears bled into the core of veins that had run dry, filling hands that now gripped and cloyed and clasped the wet muddy earth of forgotten life.
Then the woman of earth spoke – not in words, but in silent movement…..
She stretched forth her limbs, sensing the touch of the living soil of desert rock beneath her. Embracing the shifting particles with her delicate listening skin, she curled and rolled, yielding to its pulse and surrendered to its deep call. Her breath whispered into membranes awaiting the intimate warmth of her being.
The once dry earth swelled and heaved to meet the contours of her body, moulding in a gentle caress around her starved bones.
Together they lay
entwined as one
a single heartbeat
ebbing and flowing
ringing out softly
from the place of
indwelling – revealing
lost truths of
For a long time they lay together in the comfort of peace until the woman of earth’s body beckoned her to sit and the earth released her. She sat and gazed upon the place they had lay, smiling in simple wonder at the imprint of her body, like a quiet shroud telling its mysterious tale.
The woman of earth did not know if she would return or whether, perhaps she might sit again in some other distant calling land. She knew not where she would go next or how to get there – she knew only this; the gentle urging of her body to step.”
JUNE – Behind the Veil
My Body Map Story
Behind the Veil
“The veil gives the choice to be seen and not to be seen and also to see and not to see.”
I hide the unheard story from my childhood, where I was abused by a family member.
Behind the veil means for me, that when I cover my face and eyes by the veil, I do not see what I do not want to see and also I am not seen and recognized when I need it. It is a kind of protection, which I did not have as a child.
Experiencing handling from childhood till present marriage without respect and empathy, I am now giving the missing respect to my own body map by giving her a beautiful dress and veil with a wedding theme. I want to adore this woman with a broken life experience. During the body mapping workshop I re-experienced the wedding ritual with women from the circle and I filled the gap of emptiness in me.
Although feeling not being loved and respected by close family, being without a mother whose I really needed, being without a father whose I really missed, being without a loving husband, I experienced during the body meditations in the workshop being loved and held by God Father’s love.
On my body map, I am lying on God’s palm and in golden sand. My body is held by the outline of His palm. I feel protected, beloved, adored and respected with delightful passion. And, Yes, I am a God’s princess daughter.
To God’s love I responded with self-love, self-respect and I became a close friend with my body map. She now hangs in my bedroom where there is a sense of intimacy and closeness. My body map brought me back to myself.
So I say to you: No matter of your life circumstances, life experiences, traumas, and disappointments, you are precious and worthy. Even the bad things happen to us, can have something positive, it makes us more insightful, aware and more emphatic.
Let’s live the life which was given to us as best as we can.
MAY – A Love Story
by Christina Greenland
….and the other side
My Body Map Story
A Love Story
I find you floating in the heavens,
You are free and peaceful
Without boundaries or ground.
I fear for you,
Lest you should float forever or disintegrate.
And you fear the earth,
And the harshness of life.
Carefully and deliberately
I mark your boundaries.
And others help
And with touch and with love
We coax your corporeal body
Preparing for your arrival.
And I go under your skin,
Trace the constellations of your body,
Hear the pounding of your heart,
Feel the warmth of your hands in mine.
And with my breath I give life to you while you fill my lungs with air.
I could stay here forever,
Warm and safe in the hollow of your body.
But I travel onwards,
As I know I must,
Stopping only for a moment in your womb,
And into this world.
I am irreverent now,
Untouched by critique.
It is a simple state of being.
I cut away parts of world that cling too tightly to you,
What was once imperfect now inspires,
I work fast and with purpose
Because we trust each other
And in this state of creation we become unclear as to who is the maker
And whom the made.
We wrap our arms around each other,
Oh how our hearts sing,
And brimming with the wonder and the joy of it all,
Our cup overflows so that others might drink.
Now take this into your heart,
Hold it there and let it whisper to you
In the daylight and in the dark
For I am with you and you are with me,
Because I am you as you are me.
This piece connects me to life and death. It echoes through my original birth journey to the parts of myself still longing to be born and to those that, no longer needed, I can allow to die. I am reminded that this takes a powerful kind of self-love, supported by the love of others, wherein creativity can thrive and inner and outer experiences can be reconciled.
MARCH – Stir It Up
by Ruth Love
My Body Map Story
stir it up
circling round the canvas
looking at myself from different angles,
seeing all the wants, all the desires, all the parts of me
babies, womb, speech, power, heart
all terrifying and exhilarating at the same time
is that me? that glowing goddess dancing on the page,
resides in her womb, and which can be channelled
into a myriad of different paths
if only I could choose which?
this power is buried deep in the girdle of my hips,
in the sacred grove of my womb,
I have been searching for a way
to reach it, touch it, for years, yet,
now I have caught a glimpse of the bloody depths,
reached in and stirred the cauldron up
it frightens me. so much potential is there,
can I really let it out?
it won’t stay inside, this mapping of me
has made it real, has given form and context,
colour and movement to the
fathomless lake of energy
which until now has lain, supporting little life,
in the valley of my hips,
over looked, under appreciated, unnoticed.
I can’t ignore it
push it down and away, can’t let it
evaporate and dry up,
leaving behind a barren empty space.
if I do, there will always
be something missing.
my attention gives it fuel,
lets it surge up, rising inexorably.
the cauldron boils and gurgles,
it bubbles up and through,
the steam infusing every part of me.
now face to face with myself,
I look myself in the eye,
in the womb,
in the heart,
and am so achingly terrified
and so overcome with love
that tears fall down my cheeks.
this woman, this creation is me, a me
I don’t, can’t
see and yet I’m there, always.
I have unleashed myself, broken through
my walls, and leapt out, onto a page
to be seen, to be remembered,
to be looked at and pondered over,
to be greeted, like an old friend who
I haven’t seen in years
DECEMBER – Honouring the Element of Water
by Emma Scott
My Body Map Story
Honouring the Element of Water
This body map is my second one and it evolved in direct relationship with my first.
I first struggled to find my way from one to the next. My first body map was bold: I had painted it in a period of recovery from treatment for breast cancer and I had used bright colours and the imprint of holding hands to create protection. Having decided to make a new body map, I now found it difficult to leave this protection and venture onto yet unchartered canvas.
I remember that I laid out both body maps and moved slowly, shifting myself along from one across the gap onto the new. Once I laid down to find my position on the new canvas I found myself facing up, with strength of presence and with seemingly no direction or movement. The experience was one of being in still water. This felt familiar: in times of uncertainty, stillness is my natural condition of mind, in order not to make waves and to maintain an appearance of peace.
During a body meditation I dropped deeper into this experience and was surprised by a sense of being immersed in deep water and suddenly feeling buoyant and supported behind my back. It was as described by one of the women in my group later when she saw my resulting body map image: not directionless but, in fact, in motion and with purpose carried along by the water’s current. The simple yet profound truth of this is becoming clearer the more I contemplate my body map.
I have explored the Taoist understanding of how the energies of our body are connected to the seasons and the elements. The water energy lies within the kidney area and is related to winter and the emotion of fear. The body map process allowed me to meet and look deeper into this fear of mine.
Having had the courage to leave the protection of my first body map, I was now open to be with this fear whilst staying in a relaxed state of floating and being held. Further body meditations brought wave-like movements which also meant that my emotions could flow rather than stay stagnant – this is the healing power of water.
In yet another body meditation I could feel my strength rising and receding with the sense of water, like waves pulling back and forth, moving from darkness to bright sunlight. With the memory of the physical experience of floating and feeling buoyant under my back, it was like being in the womb, and here I could finally feel my deep pain residing. The pain of my very first separation: a forceful projection away from a heavenly place.
The more I trusted the motion of the sea in my body meditation, though, the quicker the pain of separation was dispelled. I imagined becoming a seal, diving and turning into the void, with a growing willingness to lose everything. I harnessed the raw power of the waves, moving round and round in this womb-like space. As I surrendered to the energy of this quickening whirl I felt myself also quietly resting into my angel-like posture with my arms to my side and a sense of timeless support. Finding my angel within, not just as an idea but as a bodily presence, has been the most significant part of my body map journey.
Towards the end of the weekend, we were invited to access support from each other and I asked the other women to stand behind me and lean into my back and shoulders. Our breathing was centred. They were my witness bearers and my background presence. Like the glistening, soft white material which I had attached with gold thread to my body map, they became my wings.
The antidote to the primal fear is love; the depth of the fear is love. In contact with the other women and in reconnection with my angel spirit I experienced the simple act of loving what I was afraid of: separation and death, and I felt universal love for me.
SEPTEMBER – Sculptured Integration, Renewal and Female Power
by Laura Forman
My Body Map Story
I came to Body Mapping through a growing awareness of the power of working with my body in many ways, to heal and liberate by looking at creative ways of discovering the language of the body.
Over twenty years ago I came across a chapter, ‘The Body’s Poetics of Illness’, in Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore. This marked the beginning of my lifelong exploration, a creative, poetic dialogue with my often painful symptoms, encompassing and uncovering the forgotten. Often this process revealed early trauma and pain.
I embarked on the first session in order to consciously begin and embrace a new transition as a woman, coming in to the elder chapter with the changes and ending of menses and the beginning of a new phase.
Process & places
This body map came into being over two weekend workshops separated by a period of six months. The first was during the month of November, which mirrored my entering the winter season of age, as I prepared to enter my 50th year. This time in a woman’s life offers her tremendous change – physiological, spiritual and cultural. Life invites us to be conscious. Being present to the body in the midst of such potent change is tremendously enlivening, and for me there is sorrow and loss too.
From the beginning, body mapping helped reveal my deeply held patterns of illness – shown in the central area of the body map, the throat area and the head. Working with the other women in the group was integral to its creation and form, through my connecting with their reflections and where they each were in their own lives and bodies. The intimacy of having the outline of your body drawn with care by another is a wonderful way of being reminded of your interdependence and connectivity.
These early creations on the map brought alive my symptoms of nausea, headache, vomiting, collapse and feeling overwhelmed, which connected to my having been in a coma for three weeks as a small child. It was very powerful for me to transmit myself onto the map and find self-expression through different forms and textures. At first, I created the interior of my head with white netting, nails, and sharp pine needles. On having the map erected, to view as a mirror reflection, elements of it fell away to the floor, including a clay circle in the throat, a red piece of wire being the last of my blood and the full interior of the head leaving emptiness. What fell away was significant. And it is still unknown to me.
I hung the Body Map on my bedroom wall, and left it there for six months allowing dreams and visions to arise, as well as time to be with the emptiness, the incompleteness. As I increasingly recognised this incompleteness, I greatly welcomed the opportunity to continue with the map. This follow-on time was in May – Spring, the time of new life emerging. I felt a different energy, a new emergence, and connection with the map. I spent much of my time integrating the whole body map, with delicate pale pink paint providing a connection to its different parts and giving an interior to the whole. I felt a strong desire to bring a sense of connection and form to the inner and outer worlds. The heart area took new form, as did the head area.
Interestingly, I brought back the original netting, the original interior of the head that had fallen away, and used this as an element integral to yet separate from the map. I found myself adding new elements, softening it a little with paper and painting the paper.
Living the body Map
I spent some time towards the end of the second body map session just being with the map, quietly contemplating the integration I had achieved, my sense of renewal and power and movement. Since returning home with the map I have looked at it only a couple of times. The headaches and sickness seem to have lessened. I believe I have more to share and it is still unfolding.
Message to the world
Whoever looks upon this: Where does your eye travel? What do you see? Does the map find you?
All our internal maps are unique and beautiful, they never stay the same. They are lost and renewed at different times of our lives, just as the rivers and mountains change with the passing millennia, or as man carves his way into the earth for some purpose.
Trust what is revealed and speak to it.
Seasons of a Woman has grown out of the past two years of body mapping with many gifted women. It opens at the Red Earth Studio this September.
12 Women & 12 Months
Mapping the Seasons of our Bodies and Lives
This exhibition brings together 12 women, our body maps and our stories of dropping deeper into the landscape of our bodies and lives. To take stock, to discover anew, to unearth the old.
Each woman’s body map depicts a moment in time, often at the threshold to another phase in her life. It has been created over one or several weekends through a process that combines body meditation, movement, touch and art making in an intimate circle of women.
What unfolds collectively is the ever present cycle of coming to life, blossoming, maturing, dying and rebirthing. The art works and stories – exhibited one by one over the course of one year – beautifully reveal what it means to be living this cycle in and through our bodies.
Month after month, season after season.
I will be posting the first Body Map soon.
Please return soon to see the wonderful work.