Flow of Life is a multidisciplinary expression inspired by the menstrual cycle and the story of womanhood.

This organically grown body of work started with a seed of pain and led over the course of one lunar year to healing and understanding. The pain invited Marisa to witness and physically feel one of the core wounds of our planet, the suppression and misunderstanding of women and their blood. As she allowed the  collective trauma to flow through her, the moon paintings inspired visions of the past and the future. 

This feeling and seeing manifested itself into free-bleed paintings, a short film, poem, photography & more which you can all explore on this site.

Wisdom of the Womb

In early 2021, artist & activist Marisa Papen arrived at a point in her life where her periods became increasingly difficult, debilitating and excruciatingly painful, both physically and emotionally. For most of her life that was not the case. But for most of her life she was constantly traveling, never really settling in a place for more than a couple weeks at a time. It wasn’t until her life came to a pause during the pandemic, that her menstruation began to take center stage. Marisa expresses, “After years of uneventful periods suddenly that moment of the month shook me up and left me stranded on broken, unstable ground. I had never felt my body like this before, anywhere I’d normally look to find my center, nothing was to be found.”

As an artist, her natural response was to explore this through art. During one cycle she decided to bleed directly onto some paper. What she witnessed through seeing her blood for the first time in this way captivated and furthered her quest for healing. She saw her blood as extremely beautiful & mysterious and decided to document 13 months of her flow through free bleed painting. In doing so, she was able to connect to her womb and wound in a way that was both profound and life changing.

Over the course of those 13 months she came into deep contact with her inner dimensions, both physical and emotional. For the first months she would be on the floor in fetal position, crying, shaking, in pain, her blood full of clots, her emotions high, extremely vulnerable & volatile, often resulting in deep depression & anxiety. At one point, she ended up in the emergency room, bleeding 5 cups in a couple hours outside of her usual flow, her strength was leaving her body. 

During her journey of healing, she began journaling every month, taking note of all the sensations in her body, mind and the features of her flow. She also started working with a healer, through chinese medicine, herbs and acupuncture. Additionally she began working with the I-Ching, delving into her sub-conscious for clues and insights into the wound, both hers and the collective feminine.

By the end of the 13 months, her clots were down to the size of pea, if she had any at all, and her pain subsided to a degree where she no longer needed to take pain meds. Her emotional wellbeing was not only restored, but more balanced and centered. Connecting to her flow through art, writing & close observation, she now sees her monthly bleeding as profoundly sacred. Synchronizing her whole being as a woman with the divine principles of nature. 

“By making menstruation visible, artists provide us with a different view, which largely sidesteps debates about implementing policy and providing free products. Rather, artists have kept focused on the issues regarding menstruation that cannot be solved by a ‘technology-fix’, and have also showed the ways in which the menstrual cycle may be considered a positive event.” 

Camilla Mørk Røstvik, University of Leeds 

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