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Anatomical Femininity

Procrustes' Bed

Rebecca Lown


Procrustes’ Bed, 1990

Consists of 3 pamphlets issued in a case; title from case.

Courtesy of Oberlin College Clarence Ward Art Library

Vibrational Distillation

Audra Skuodas

(American, b. 1940)

Vibrational Distillation, from the series Comic Weaving, 2010

Colored pencil collage element and thread on paper, 30 x 22 in.

Allen Memorial Art Museum

This series of pamphlets shows the body in a flux state between growth and decay. Although colorful, the contents of these pamphlets hold a darker meaning. Titled Procrustes’ Bed, Rebecca Lown here references Procrustes, the son of the Greek God Poseidon, whose myth centers around his “one-size-fits-all” mentality, known for cutting the legs of each of his guests to fit one single bed.

In this piece, Procrustes and his bed are replaced by a plastic surgeon and a gurney. About to undergo cosmetic plastic surgery, the women on each page are labeled; “Face,” “Breast,” “Buttocks.” These identifiers are remnants of their bodies prior to the quite literal dissections of face-lifts, breast implants, and liposuction they are about to undergo.

In Procrustes’ Bed, Lown’s feminist commentary focuses on the women’s bodies experiencing material change in order to become legible and accepted within society’s unattainable beauty standards. Through the pamphlets, Lown creates a visual dialogue that at once emphasizes the agency of the subjects to have choice over their bodies and their inability to resist plastic surgery, their new “host.”

Tess Joseph '19 


Outlined in colored pencil and then traced in thread, Vibrational Distillation rejects normative views of anatomy, instead portraying unexpected connections that vibrate from body part to body part. Through the traditionally feminine act of sewing, Skuodas reimagines the body through a feminist lens. The placement of the vulva above the heart creates a new anatomical hierarchy, translating the body’s materiality hierarchy into a legible feminist statement.

Connected by a stream of blood, menstrual blood and the blood that all bodies blend together. In this connection, Skuodas distills a new meaning of value in the body’s function as a life-giving entity, a function that gives the body power.

Making legible a narrative that is often untold—a narrative that gives power and value to bodies with vulvas—Skuodas emphasizes the power of the body to subvert normative ideals, whether in its anatomical materiality or its social legibility.

Tess Joseph '19