Vanessa Dion-Fletcher stood in the middle of the stage with blood-stained white pants and a smile. In the lobby, there were piles of pristine white underwear, and in her hands, there were bottles of brightly colored paints.
“I’m feeling a little damp,” she said. “But not to worry, with menstrual accessory you simply embellish and embrace.”
The Cornerstone Screening room was three-quarters full as Dion-Fletcher, a visiting artist from Toronto, marketed her new product “Menstrual Accessory” to the audience as part of a performance piece she’s been working on for the past few years.
Dion-Fletcher first came up with idea of menstrual-related art while finishing up her undergraduate degree in Studio Art from New York University. She was menstruating regularly, and it made her feel uncomfortable and unprofessional — until she examined those feelings and realized, why not incorporate the experience of menstruation into her work?
“Honoring that my body and mind are not separate. I address the socio-political representations and implications of Menstruation, reproduction and the biological body,” she wrote on her website.
In the past, this self-examination has produced works like “Own Your Cervix,” an installation at the Tangled Art Gallery in Toronto that included menstrual blood stains decorated with red beads, a couch called “Colonial Comfort” painted in Dion-Fletcher’s own menstrual blood, and an invitation for visitors to undergo a cervical self-examination. “Menstrual Accessory” is more lighthearted, a scripted “infomercial” designed to highlight the expectations placed on bodies who menstruate.
“Unlike your period, Menstrual Accessory is trendy, fashionable, and desirable,” Dion-Fletcher said. “Once you get gold menstrual accessory on there, it really dazzles.”
During the 20-minute performance, Dion-Fletcher introduced her product: small bottles of paint in vibrant shades of pink and magenta that are supposed to conceal (but really serve to highlight) menstrual stains on clothing. She “bled” through her pants during the performance, and gave a live demonstration of the decorative uses of Menstrual Accessory. Then she showed pictures of herself, in bloodstained white pants outlined with swirls of pink, in the airport, at the beach, and even posing for a picture with a New Mexican senator.
“People are generally concerned,” she said about the public’s reactions to her wearing obviously bloodstained pants in public. “They’re worried I don’t know what’s happening.”
But Dion-Fletcher is unbothered. Telling a story about the time a TSA officer came after her to warn her that there was blood on her pants, Dion-Fletcher said, “My response is always, ‘I know! It’s so great. It matches my shoes, lips, and nails!”
Dion-Fletcher is currently an artist-in-residence at Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto, but she will be staying at Colorado College for several days in order to interact with a convergence class made up of the Feminist Performance, Feminist Psychology of Embodiment, and Introduction to Queer Studies classes.
Many of the students of these classes were already at Dion-Fletcher’s performance, and Tomi-Ann Roberts, professor of feminist ssychology of embodiment, led students along with Dion-Fletcher in decorating white underwear with Menstrual Accessory in the Cornerstone lobby following the performance.