The FedEx Global Education Center hosted a lecture Tuesday by Manuela De Leonardis on her traveling art exhibition The Blood of Women: Traces of Red on White Cloth. The visual art project presents antique menstrual cloths decorated by 68 international female artists.
While shopping at a flea market in Rome, De Leonardis encountered menstrual cloths for sale. She recognized the cloths because they resembled the one belonging to her mother. From this connection between her personal memory and society’s collective memory, she was inspired to turn the ordinary object into an art exhibit, De Leonardis said.
“I am always interested in found objects,” De Leonardis said. “I think that the thrift shop or flea market is like a museum. You can find everything. You can find humanity.”
De Leonardis, an art historian, photo archivist, journalist and independent curator, began the project in 2014 by sending the flea market menstrual cloths to artists who agreed to contribute. Many of the artists were on De Leonardis’ team or had collaborated on projects with De Leonardis in the past. Once the artists completed adding their own unique artistic expressions on the cloth, they mailed their artwork back to De Leonardis to be used in the collection.
The first exhibition, which highlighted the work of 14 artists, was in 2015 at the International Women’s House in Rome. With the aim of challenging the taboo of menstruation, the artwork explores many aspects of femininity, including love, birth, sexuality, violence, death, menopause and the relationship between men and women, De Leonardis said.