#WomanCentered is an independent project by conceptual artist and community organizer, Natasha Marin. Inspired by Women at the Center, a project created with support from the United Nations Foundation Universal Access Project. This series of interviews seeks to tell the inspiring, interconnected stories of women’s reproductive health, rights, and empowerment.

Ambrosia Bartosekulva of Chicago, IL.

How has having or not having children affected the overall trajectory of your life?

I don’t have strong feelings about having or not having children, but during a miscarriage about a year and a half ago, I decided to commit to creating art in the same way I would have committed to creating a being.

There have been two times in my life when I thought I might have a child. Both were very critical turning points in how I value myself, how I relate to my body, how I communicate with others, how I define boundaries, how I commit to myself …

The potential of becoming a parent is something indescribable.

Somehow, that instinctual sense of preciousness that begins to develop in pregnancy around the life you carry inside you began to extended inward — which at both times I sorely lacked. It is a gift I am continuously grateful for.

Do you feel pressure to fulfill an idea of womanhood that may/may not correspond to who you actually are? If so, please describe.

The social confinement of Gender is a continuous burden, whether or not I choose to identify with it. The sacred privilege of containing a womb is a fair trade.

Do you have advice for other women regarding birth control methods that worked well or didn’t work well for you?

I was on Depo-Provera (the shot) when I was a teenager, not realizing the dangers of it — both mentally and physically. Seriously, just DON’T. My favorite condoms are Skyn — non-latex and barely there! A non-hormonal DUI is my dream, but my cervix ain’t havin’ it.

If you are interested in an herbal alternative, look into Neem Oil. There are also some natural ways to promote a menstrual cycle if you have any lapses with Black and Blue Cohosh tincture, vaginal steams, and high dose vitamin C.

Also, I put vaginal probiotics up in my bits once a week, take them internally on the daily, and do a few herbs for hormonal balance — having a healthy vagina means lower risk of STI’s, painful intercourse, and my favorite — makes all the sexy things you do feel better.

In 2016, openly discussing one’s reproductive choices is still considered taboo, why do you suppose more women aren’t having these conversations?

There are a lot of things we could blame, but honestly — I think female-bodied people of whatever gender are exhausted. We are tired of the weight of these discussions, of the ripples they cause. It’s no longer thrilling to be the shocker in the room.

“Discarded Materials” by Ambrosia Bartosekulva

I make a lot of art with my menstrual blood. When I first began years ago, I hated how much awe and admiration, anger and disgust would come from people when I would show pieces with it listed as a medium. I stopped including it. Like, fuck off if you can’t handle a little blood. This is my body and this was the most natural course of action to me in the world, to use it as an instrument. As natural as singing or breathing or fucking.

(Left) “Materials for a Vessel”; (Right) “Materials for a Painting”— Menstrual Art by Ambrosia Bartosekulva
I’ve grown less self-conscious since and am now documenting my menstrual blood as a part of a photo study over the rest of this year. #letstalkaboutwombsbaby

Where are you on the continuum of self-love? On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being Kanye West), how much do you love yourself and how do you reinforce and/or improve this?

Feelings of love and hatred rely on the definitions we create for ourselves. The self is ambiguous — maybe intentionally — just a vessel to experience these fleeting emotions. Love, distaste, disappointment, pride, shame, wonder … I’m aiming more for peace with myself, than love.

If you could go back in time and give your younger self some vital information or critical education about your body, your overall wellness, or your reproductive health, what would your advice be?

Younger Ambrosia would never have listened to advice. She needed brutal awakenings. But if I could have dropped a hint: Life is not black and white.

Find the grey area, embody it, be elusive and contradictory and unknowable. Never perfect. Never the opposite. Pride will only stunt you.

(If applicable) how have the men closest to you supported your reproductive education/awareness and/or choices?

This is a loaded question in many ways, and makes me want to tell my life story. To keep things brief, the cis-men in my life have shown me a full spectrum from intense abuse, dehumanization, and neglect to consideration, support and intellectual understanding. Humans are complex — those who do not fight to understand that which is outside of their experience, will only covet and seek to destroy it. Empathy takes research and inquisitiveness and objectivity.

Ambrosia Barosekulva is a multidisciplinary visual and performance artist.

“As an artist, I aim to challenge the paradigm that the majority has agreed to live within; I choose to refute the idea of fear, the idea of sin, the idea of shame or guilt for the depth which humanity has to offer.”