Flow of Life is an intimate discovery on how to embrace my whole natural being and to project it through my body as multidisciplinary poetry.


Marisa Papen (August 2022)


Even though I modeled nude for 8 years and my spirit is freedom, I would always adjust my pose if I sensed the camera could capture my flower. I wasn’t hiding because of shame but it was the knowing that it could provoke sexual thoughts in others. In March 2021, when NFT’s spiked in popularity, I decided to contribute and offer my ‘Flower of Life’ as a non-fungible vagina. The creation process of this image literally opened me to myself and to the world. Seeing myself in such detail, in such simultaneous complexity and simplicity, humbled, empowered and inspired me. To the extent that since then, the only work I have been creating is of the vagina or from the vagina.

I believe I had to fully surrender to my whole natural body first so I could now as an artist look at my own blood. With self-acceptance I offered my entire being to become a vessel for expression through free-bleed painting, photography, film and poetry. Each month, close to the release of my menstrual blood, an emotion, perspective or theme would arise. The design of the paintings would sometimes unfold as I was bleeding, other times the theme pre-inspired the motif. As my cycle fulfilled itself, I would study and photograph the texture + color of the blood and I would take notes of thoughts + feelings. I would engage in exploratory conversations with Michael to absorb and translate the theme to the greatest of my ability. Those notes eventually became the spine for the poem. The poem was then again re-arranged to accompany the 13 paintings. 

Through this devoted observation I was carried beyond my own pain and suppression. I experienced the collective trauma of generations flowing through my body, I would fall to the floor and cry out “This is not just my pain, this is the pain of so many women.” I felt the suppression of ages surging into my uterus and I viscerally understood the fear of the unknown. Our choosing to own and control rather than to be and feel is what is clouding our vision. The first 6 months were incredibly challenging, but the more I allowed my blood to tell me its story, the more truth I experienced, the easier it got. We often relate and react to things, including our bodies from our beliefs and patterns. We are told simplistic and perverted stories about our genitals and our blood but nothing in this world is singular or one-dimensional. By accepting our bodies as they are, we can evolve these stories. We can grow our relationship to ourselves + each other and we can re-integrate with the natural world.

As I was invited to look at the beauty of my blood, I now invite you, to look at yourself. Because to look at your pain is a road to freedom.

Flow of Life is a practice of patience, surrender, self-inquiry and observation. It is natural therapy and a wild journey. 

Flow of Life is an homage to women who have lived and live their lives in shame and guilt for their bodies and blood. It is a call to open and to witness yourself free from those stories and to experience authentically your own existence.

Marisa Papen (June 2022)

“To be with the Flow of Life, I must move to the mood of the organic manifestation I am” 

That is how I arrived here, bleeding, with paper below my feet… For 13 months or one lunar year, my vagina and gravity were my paintbrush in this personal yet universal exploration.

I never offered much attention to the cycles of my womanhood or the chamber of transformation residing within me. I experienced my blood simply as a time of discomfort. This shallow relationship eluded me from the profound guiding wisdom of my womb. 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. On the day my uterus was ready for release, I would be in such excruciating pain, I would be crawling on the floor, crying for help. I would move from a cramped fetus into a long stretch, trying to find some sort of relief. Sometimes it would make me vomit. Always it would make me incredibly anxious. This imbalance was not just creating physical pain, it was spilling over into multiple areas of my life. Every cycle, around the time of ovulation Michael and I would start bracing ourselves. For two weeks of the month, we were in a state of uncomfortable alertness, on the look-out for a possible eruption. 

Flow of Life streamed as an urgent desire to understand my suffering and to know, it is me who carries pain but also, pain who carries me. By looking closely at the blood that was connected to my pain, I learned about internal and external tensions and the necessity to cultivate a space to heal and grow. Through deep presence with both the subtle and profound sensations of my body, I could trace the arrival of inner turbulence as a response to a longing for a more balanced, healthy, whole life. Month after month of free-bleeding, I gradually gained greater freedom and clarity and my emotional and physical pain began to ebb away.

Today I am working closely with an acupuncturist and herbalist to reach ultimate hormonal health. When I started working with her, she asked me to draw the size of the biggest clot in my flow, it was about 2 inches big. Now my biggest clot is the size of a pea. 

I am deeply grateful for my womb as my teacher, goddess Pele as my host, freedom as my gift, art as my healer, and my most precious husband Michael who’s love, care and support encourage me to open to the flow of life.

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