'I hid my periods': Woodbridge artist will shatter taboos in debut exhibition

'My SELF(ish) Portrait Gallery' showcases the journey of Woodbridge artist, SOPHIE.

'My SELF(ish) Portrait Gallery' is the culmination of many years of shame and rage to self-love and acceptance for Woodbridge artist, SOPHIE. - Credit: SOPHIE

A woman from Woodbridge is preparing for the launch of her first exhibition, ready to shatter taboos around menstruation and women's struggles in time with International Women’s Day. 

‘My SELF(ish) Portrait Gallery’ is the debut exhibition of SOPHIE, 40, who is passionate about “valuing the undervalued” and showcasing her own experience of being a woman.  

For SOPHIE, this means unpicking the shame, rage and frustration she often felt.

“I felt like I’d been carrying around this enormous sense of shame and rage since I was born,” she explains. 

“My father abandoned me at birth, and I remember as a teenager feeling ashamed of being a woman. When I was having my periods, I would hide them.” 

The menstrual cycle is closely linked with SOPHIE’s work. The exhibition will include 16 pieces, each from the first day of her cycle. 

“They’re things which were with me in the moment,” SOPHIE says. “I call it ‘confessional art.’” 

'My SELF(ish) Portrait Gallery' is SOPHIE's debut exhibition.

'My SELF(ish) Portrait Gallery' is SOPHIE's debut exhibition. - Credit: Tim Hargraves

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One piece, for example, is a spatula. 

“There was a day when I was extremely frustrated with being a mother, stuck at home, when I knew I was a great artist. It felt like everything was slipping from me. 

“At that time, I was holding a spatula, and I realised that actually, the spatula is the art.” 

The spatula symbolises SOPHIE's moment of reconciliation, making peace with spending most of her time in a domestic setting.

The spatula symbolises SOPHIE's moment of reconciliation, making peace with spending most of her time in a domestic setting. - Credit: SOPHIE

SOPHIE tells a story through 16 pieces of art, each from the first day of her cycle.

SOPHIE tells a story through 16 pieces of art, each from the first day of her cycle. She threw this rolling pin across her kitchen in a moment of rage. - Credit: SOPHIE

SOPHIE built up a collection of 16 pieces, each with a story to tell. 

“I came to realise that the art coming through me was very much domestic, because that was the space I was in,” says SOPHIE.  

“My studio was my kitchen, living room, bathroom. I had to make peace with that.” 

SOPHIE now believes that the menstrual cycle is ultimately a freeing experience. 

“On day one of your bleed, you step away from who you think you should be, towards the grandeur of your authentic self. 

“That really confronted me, because what I saw was this raging woman who I had been conditioned not to like. 

“You can see my journey, from where I hid my artwork and felt intense shame, to where I am now, putting on an exhibition with a spatula to a rolling pin to a menstrual-stained dress.” 

‘My SELF(ish) Portrait Gallery’ will be showing from March 8-11 at Aldeburgh’s Courtyard Gallery.