Updated: Mar 1, 2019
‘Martyr Me, like Saint Apollonia’.
Self portrait. (Below)
I have a recurring dream that my mouth is full of thick putty. I have something important to say. I dig deep into the putty with my fingers, ripping it away from my teeth. As I tear pieces away the putty grows. As I break it free my teeth shatter in my hands. I hold the pieces in my hands as they turn to pearls.
I created this self portrait after I first saw a depiction of Saint Apollonia in Exeter Cathedral. The Catholic Church has historically viewed women as the property of men and idolized the Virgin Mary or the Virgin Martyrs. To be worthy of being recorded in Catholic history women had to be stripped of their sexuality, their humanity and objectified.
painted on a door at Exeter Cathedral.' (Below)
Saint Apollonia, Patron Saint of Dentistry is venerated by the Roman Catholic Church. As the story goes, she was a Virgin Martyr brutalised in the 3rd century for her religion, she was beaten, all of her teeth broken and burnt alive. Throughout history she has been depicted in a meek pose, holding tongs that clasps a single tooth.
There are over 50 depictions of Saint Apollonia in Roman Catholic churches all across the UK. Andy Warhol depicted her in a series of screen prints in 1984. With his depictions of Hollywood icons, particularly Marilyn Monroe Warhol continued a legacy of turning women into icons and into objects for visual reproduction. Stripping them of their humanity and creating idols to be worshiped. Although Warhol's idols often break with the virgin narrative and are seen instead as sexual objects. But nonetheless his portraits are continuing a legacy of men creating and controlling the narratives of women something I explore in my own work.
As I rip my teeth from my mouth, I am desperate to speak. Freud related dreams about losing teeth to sexual repression. With the legacy of the virgin/whore dichotomy would you be surprised if I was? But I think these dreams are not about sexual repression, I believe they are about needing to be heard and believed. About resisting a culture of silencing. Even when I speak I am not believed, I was not believed by my teachers and now I am not believed by my doctors. But that is a story for another day.
A photo of mine and my brothers baby teeth,
kept in a pot by my mothers bed. (Above)