Endometriosis. It’s not a word that gets thrown around in casual conversation, or even serious conversation for that matter. Despite the fact that over 1 in 10 women suffer with this illness across the globe, it remains a rather forbidden topic. This disease comes with an array of symptoms ranging from chronic fatigue to excruciating pain, yet the illness continues to remain a ‘private issue.’ There is a whole community of people looking for answers about this Endometriosis, yet many feel there is still not enough being done in terms of medical research or education. You could say, this disease has been looking for a voice. Instead, it has found a very powerful paint brush, held by the hand of Adelaide artist and Endometriosis sufferer, Ellie Kammer.
Since a very young age, Kammer has been using her art to express emotions and give herself a voice. In 2015, she was told she had Endometriosis, a diagnosis that would hugely impact her life and her creative practice. Since then, she has been using her paintings to express what she, and 176 million other women suffer with each day. ‘I was diagnosed at the right time in my career,’ she says, ‘before I was diagnosed I was technically capable of painting but I felt a concerning disconnect between the work I was creating and my true self.’
Endometriosis is a gynaecological disease, which is probably what makes it such a ‘private’ disease in the first place. ‘Endo is generally tough to discuss,’ says Kammer, ‘and it's typically very hard to be properly understood or empathised with.’ Endometriosis comes with a string of symptoms, with each sufferer enduring a different experience. These can include chronic fatigue, bloating, pelvic pain, nausea, painful periods, painful intercourse, excessive bleeding and, in some cases, loss of fertility. These symptoms are confronting for non-sufferers of Endo, and this is something that Kammer uses in her works. ‘Words can only do so much, but an image is immediate and it begs the viewer to respond deep within themselves,’ Kammer says of her bold and often shocking use of imagery.
After her diagnosis, Kammer experienced a lot of intense emotions that forced her to take a new look at herself and what kind of person she wanted to be, moving forward with her illness. ‘It was then that I made a rather spontaneous but certain decision that I would do a large, confronting painting about endometriosis in a style that I had never practiced with, but that felt fluid and organic to me,’ she says, ‘It was a pivotal moment for me in life and work.’
Kammer’s decision to start painting her experiences with Endometriosis was also a pivotal moment for the illness and the community of those suffering with it. Kammer now has over 13K followers on Instagram, many of whom are fellow Endo sufferers. ‘My fans are very passionate, they show me a lot of love and support,’ she says, ‘I have seen how my works have made changes for individuals. Some women have searched more aggressively for answers from their doctors after having seen my paintings and they've gone on to get a diagnosis.’ Kammer is also supported by Endometriosis Australia, which is a foundation that helps to raise awareness and funds to work towards research and treatments. ‘Education is needed regarding this disease and I am proud to be supported by Endometriosis Australia in doing that,’ says Kammer.
Her upcoming exhibition is called ‘Nescience,’ which refers to the widespread ignorance about Endometriosis. The exhibition will consist of ten works, two of which are self-portraits. ‘I'm slightly nervous as I definitely have thrown my vulnerabilities out there for all to see,’ explains Kammer, ‘The collection includes two self portraits where the figure is very exposed and has clearly wasted away under the pressures of chronic illness.’ Kammer has been working on the exhibition for over 15 months, developing the series from her home studio as well as her new studio at Karma and Crow cafe and studio collective. The main concept of the exhibition is to raise awareness for the condition that Kammer shares with millions of other women worldwide. ‘I also explored body image throughout the series and the dignity that can be lost for a woman with a gynaecological disease,’ she says ‘I put what I wanted into the pieces but I encourage viewers to take what they want from them.’
'Nescience' opens on 6th July 2017 6:00-8:00pm at Light Square Gallery with an open invitation. The night will include Delinquente Wine Co wines and some exceptional art-viewing. The opening event is free, and the exhibition will run until 26th July 2017.
Images via Ellie Kammer