An art assignment for all: make an anatomical votive

Becky Brewis is an artist based in Dundee. She has recently devised an art assignment – open to all – which guides participants through making an anatomical votive in response to this time of physical separation. She tells us about the project and how you can take part…

I devised this workshop as part of an open learning event held online by Edinburgh College of Art last month, which saw a group of artists collaborate on a short programme of art assignments, presented as a podcast series with the aim of taking participants offline and into their senses. The activities had to work at home and had to respond in some way to the times we are living in.

Anatomical votive wombs based on images in the Wellcome Collection © Becky Brewis 2020

The art assignment I produced invites participants to make their own anatomical votive, with the aim of making a connection between feelings, the body and the act of making an object.

During this time of physical separation and touch deprivation, the idea is for each participant to use their body as a site of meditation on how they are feeling, and to turn this act into a hand-made material object. I was interested in devising an intimate sculptural activity, undertaken in private, which then undergoes a shift into public space, so am encouraging people to share what they make.

Caves © Becky Brewis 2020

My own work explores images as material objects under pressure. Through slow processes like sewing and embroidery, I try to make pieces which, in their sensory fullness and factual slipperiness, are true to the acts of creating autobiography and of remembering. Recently, I’ve been using ancient Greek and Roman votive imagery to make a series of small quilts.

Quilted votive © Becky Brewis 2020

When I was reading about ex-votos, dedicated to the gods at sites of healing, one of the images that really stuck with me was of all of these many body parts, signifying different things to many individuals, accumulating in one place to form one massive, composite human body – a body made up of endless fragments and repetitions. I felt that the image could have resonance now, as a kind of physical distancing antidote. By collecting what gets made in response to this art assignment on our online ‘site of healing’, the aim is to make another such composite body. And further down the line, I’d like to make an artist book, too.

Skins © Becky Brewis 2020

The art assignment is available here and is an open educational resource. So, if you do take part – or even run your own workshop using this model – I’d love to see what gets made. Please email rebecca.brewis@gmail.com.

Votive by Chiara Cavallini
Votive by Christy Yang
Votive by Eve Hindle
Votive by Joanne Matthews
Votive by Kirsten Sinclair

Votive by Raffaella Gerola
Votive by Velia Cavallini