Inside Out (ongoing)

This project is a collaboration with artist Brian Daines, looking at how we can tell the stories of patients with Endometriosis, and visually represent the condition in a way that conveys the reality of the disease.

Carys and Brian meet for discussions of how Endometriosis and other conditions primarily affecting women are under-researched, and aim to increase visibility of the emotional impact of the disease and treatment. 

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Quick Unpick (ongoing)

Sculpture, photography and painting, 2019-present

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Transfer I, sculpture (2021)

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This work explores my experience of severe endometriosis, critiquing the hyperfeminine imagery used to depict health conditions primarily associated with women.
I was struck by the patronising imagery used even in medical articles: flowers and domestic objects used to euphemistically represent the tissue of the disease; Women with tragic expressions clutching fluffy pink pillows to their stomachs.

I feel this is symptomatic of the medical sexism surrounding the condition: one doctor felt that since I didn’t want biological children it wasn’t ‘worth’ operating on me, and that I was ‘too emotionally fragile to handle surgery’; another told me ‘periods are SUPPOSED to hurt’ and that the reason I was in pain was anxiety causing me to overthink about my endometriosis.

This felt similar to the language and treatment weaponised against women diagnosed with ‘hysteria’ – this work explores the similarities between the hyperfeminine and domestic imagery used historically to represent hysteria and today to represent endometriosis.

I’m interested in how the visual representation of conditions associated with women shapes the public understanding of the illness. When the tissue of a disease is represented with flowers and soft fluffy objects, how can anyone be expected to take our pain seriously?
When the imagery used to illustrate endometriosis mirrors that used to depict ‘hysteria’, people will understand it as partly psychosomatic. And when someone doesn’t fit the visual stereotypes associated with the condition, doctors will be less likely to consider endometriosis as a possible cause of their symptoms.

The Anatomy of Fragile and Unconventional Women

Long-durational research project, 2017

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Selected prints on paper shown at the exhibition 'Sugar and Spice' (2017)

“These dispositional hypnoid states often, it would seem, grow out of daydreams which are so common even in healthy people, and to which needlework and similar occupations render women especially prone”​

‘The Anatomy of Fragile and Unconventional Women’ is a year-long narrative exploration of mental illness in contemporary social media culture in relation to Freud and Weir-Mitchells’ texts on the 20th Century diagnosis ‘Hysteria’. 

 

Inspired by the concept of 'radical narcissism' in 1970s feminist performance art, selfie culture, and The New Aesthetic, this research project examines modern tropes of digital culture against historical concepts of 'famous hysterics' and case studies of hysteria. The relationship between photography and the hysteria diagnosis was of particular interest to me: the sudden availability of cameras at the turn of the Century transformed the perception of hysteria from a collection of symptoms to a visual disease and public spectacle.

 

Coming from a textiles background, I was always entertained by Freud’s theory on why women weave, and I used this as a central narrative point to explore the relationship between femininity, craft, and madness.

The Hermit, The Waif, The Witch and The Queen

Photographs printed on paper, 420mm x 594mm, 2016

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This work critiques the stigma against feminine-coded mental illness, focussing in particular on the controversial diagnosis ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’. 

The four personas named ‘The Hermit, The Waif, The Witch and The Queen’ were once said to describe the different strategies employed by those with the condition to manipulate those around them. The belief that women (the text in fact refers specifically to mothers and wives!) can be categorised based on the way they manipulate men is nonsensical. However, in a condition characterised by unstable identity and now known to stem from severe trauma this stereotyping is a dangerous to those uniquely vulnerable to it.

 

Feminists have often questioned whether the diagnostic label is merely a way of pathologising ‘difficult’ women, and psychiatrists now feel that the term ‘Borderline’ - chosen because the condition was thought to ‘border’ neurosis and psychosis - does not accurately reflect the condition which is now recognised as a complex trauma disorder.