Art in Nature: Inner channels – Juliet Batten

by | Nov 13, 2023 | Art in nature | 4 comments





Feminism had opened up an inquiry into the inner channels of my reproductive system. I painted ovaries and fallopian tubes and charted my menstrual cycle through daily temperature readings, to determine the moment of ovulation. I read The Wise Wound: menstruation and everywoman by Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove and became fascinated with the psychic changes that they identified through different phases of the menstrual cycle.



I took this inquiry to the sea, creating sand forms that mirrored my inner channels, and inviting the sea into them. I wanted to discover more about how the sea moved. Would it rush faster into an open channel? Would the channels join up? What would those dry channels look like when the sea took part in shaping them afresh? How would it feel to invite the sea into my art, and collaborate with it?




Yes, the sea did rush into the long channel that then branched out into two curved arms, and the channels held their form for some time against the would-be line of the tide.



The notes I made in my artist’s notebook linked the work with my menstrual cycle, and mentioned that my son was making his own sand work nearby — a ‘dribble castle’ — and that I photographed small mounds made on the beach by sand hoppers and thought of a future project called ‘The 100 mounds project’.






From my artist’s notebook:

Sand Works II Te Henga beach (south end) December 21, 1981. About 3 pm to 5 pm – tide three-quarters way in.

Long channel to sea with two ‘arms’ each leading to a deep hole. Made the channel quite deep so the sea would race down it. Had intended to do five channels leading into a half-moon-shaped pond – but had to work fast because of the tide approaching so fast and somehow it turned into my internal channels. First day of menstruation.

Photos taken, also of my son‘s “dribble castle“ done at the same time.

Photographed small mounds on beach of sandhoppers, thinking of the hundred mounds project.

(Note: This last comment is interesting as it seems that I was already imagining the form of what would become the 100 women project in 1986).



‘We need rituals at many times, whether for healing or transformation, celebration or mourning. To learn to create our own is to empower ourselves, and this can enrichen our lives immeasurably.’

(Power from Within, p.6)



The sand inscription I left on the beach made it clear that there would be more of these rituals.( 21/12/1981)


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  1. Kerrin Brizzell

    Love this Juliet – I remember reading The Wise Wound too – great book for women to read eh. Thanks for sharing this.
    Nga mihi nui

    • Juliet Batten

      Thank you Kerrin. Nice to hear that you read ‘The Wise Wound’ too. It was a groundbreaker, that book.

  2. Paul Batten

    I still have the set of “sand scape” sculptures of yours. I bought them at the Akld Uni bookshop in about 1984, I think. They really impressed me.

    • Juliet Batten

      I love that! You are about to find out more of the context as the blog moves forward to 1984. Thanks Paul.


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