Interview with Alice Halden by Kat Vella
Women have a complicated relationship with their bodies. We hold immeasurable potential within our cells and tissues yet often see our bodies as simply ornaments that must look nice for others.
Mona spoke with Leeton creative Alice Halden about her collection of oils on craft paper "Here...take it, it's yours... isnt't it beautiful?" where she dived into the history, culture and political nature of the female breast.
Hi Alice, tell us a bit about this collection? Where was your headspace when you decided to undertake this work? What was the inspiration to get started?
It began really as an examination of the female nude across popular history, and
then, with the deep research I was doing, morphed into a specific study of female
breasts. At the time the Free the Nipple movement was in surge, and I found the
antagonising nature of the female nipple a wild idea to explore.
Why women's bodies?
Because they are glorious! They do the most important job on the planet, and like
the planet they are AWEsome! I find something so attractive, in the true sense of the
word, about the infinite ways a woman’s body, or someone who identifies as female
can act as an anchor for true awe-inspiring beauty.
Once I’d finished this work, it felt like both a love letter to this specific femaleness, but also a call to arms for women to do something radical like consider themselves differently; appreciate themselves even.
Do you have a favourite piece from the collection? Tell us why it's your
Each have their personalities; this was my first time working with oil and I was amazed at how each one turned out so differently even though I used the same process for all. There is one work where you can vaguely identify bruising and band aid near the nipple, this was captured shortly after my friend’s first breast biopsy and I like that it meant so much to her, archiving her breasts in this moment in time, because they no longer look this way. It’s like a mini celebration of the way that we change over time and that all our scars and idiosyncrasies are juicy!
How has this work impacted you and influenced your relationship to
your own body?
It started this long and deep journey for me examining my beliefs and conditioning as well as my behaviour. Was I actually living the things I said and the ideas I subscribed to? I went on to make some truly transformative work in the form of nude self-portraits (photography).
The female form and the female gaze was such a wide and rich lens for me to really drill down my own work and expression. I genuinely graduated to a new level of appreciation and comfortability with my body, I mean, its not a perfect relationship, but I realised I truly don’t have time for constantly critiquing this incredible machine that allows me to experience all the joys and pain of life!
Weirdly, throughout this journey I found myself thinking a lot about my future daughter (would I be lucky enough to have one), and how I didn’t want to poison her with what I had learned as a female, I wanted to make a very simple agreement within myself for her sake.
What was the reaction like from the public when you first exhibited the work?
I chose people I knew as models because I wanted them to feel pride in seeing their glorious bodies exhibited, maybe to help them re-negotiate the way they viewed and loved themselves. Their reactions were of particular interest, because shortly after their initial joy, most proceeded to identify elements they could see in the painting that reflected things they didn’t like about their bodies. This was disheartening but made me realise just how important this kind of work actually is to put out into the ether! Outside of this, it was mostly confusion as to why I would focus solely on breasts at all.
We totally agree Alice! Criticising our own bodies is a habit we have all internalized to some degree. Normalising seeing the natural form and shape of our physical selves is a powerful step toward self acceptance.
Anything you would like to leave our readers with?
I’d love to know what you see when you look at the work or just breasts and nipples in general…do you see sex? Motherhood? Political triggers?
Self-doubt and low self-esteem are tricky monsters, but undoubtedly killers of creativity and joy! So give your boobs some love x
You can find more of Alice's glorious work on her Instagram page @alhalcreative