Abigail worked as a costume designer predominantly in contemporary dance for over 30 years, after first training in dance theatre. Later she became Course Leader for BA Hons Theatre and Screen: Costume Design at Wimbledon College and, in 2017, was made redundant. This became a transformative experience, and she re-focused her creative life.
What happened next was that I realised I was in the rollercoaster world of peri-menopause. Consequently, I started to make work about this experience and also that of other women. This has been my way of coping with this unexpected turn of events.
‘Roadkill’ (2019) is in direct response to discovering shared language with other menopausal women on online forums. “I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus, a truck, a ton of bricks.” Change, the Change – Menopause. Our bodies are constantly changing throughout our lives, but menopause is still a change that is taboo. It is the unspoken second puberty, only in reverse. This is nature, natural, but like much that happens in the natural world it can arrive without warning and be devastating. With the 21st Century increase in life expectancy and pressure to work longer, society’s expectations on women during this transition period can also be devastating.
It has been my way of making for The Making to have a purpose. I have always had an activist and feminist nature and I decided to use my work to provoke conversations about menopause, siting it in public spaces, libraries and health centres, in addition to running creative workshops to encourage other women to express their menopause experience.
The onset of menopause can be traumatic. There is no warning, and it is not until symptoms spiral out of control that many women discover that the numerous health problems they are experiencing, all come down to hormonal disruption. The accompanying punk song, Fuck the Menopause, (link: https://open.spotify.com/album/6jI6W02J8yTvch6xyiHcf8) is intended to be informative but also cathartic – I am not dead yet!
Through my making I try to express the changes happening in my body, both physically and emotionally. As I experimented with casting parts of my body in Jesmonite (an acrylic-based plaster), I began to enjoy my body more. I have cast my breasts and belly while parallel to the floor. Gravity. My breasts have suckled two children; my belly was stretched to carry them. How can I not celebrate my body and what it has achieved? Like the costumes portrayed on Greek statues, my skin and flesh naturally drape over my bone structures.
My creative making provides me with something tangible to share, and facilitates a shared experience with others. Making is also meditative, focused, a distraction from unwanted thoughts and anxieties.
COVID has made it difficult to make; because of lock-down, that ‘life on hold’ period also came a sense of numbness, a creative void. What has been wonderful is the online exhibition callouts that have focused the mind again and made making happen and offered new connections, internationally. This would not have happened before. Small mercies.
Abigail details her making process for ‘Roadkill’ at: https://www.instagram.com/tv/B-Z99yyl1aG/?igshid=1wy7h3ejw5lii
More of Abigail’s work can be found at http://abigailhammond.co.uk/gallery/