Dr James Miranda Barry

Rowena Hall, 2009

Dr James Miranda Barry
Margaret Ann Bulkley (alias James Miranda Barry) was born in Ireland in the late eighteenth century. When Margaret and her mother were left with no financial security after the death of her father, Margaret’s maternal uncle, James Barry intervened. Being well connected and in favour of educating women, he sought assistance from two colleagues: Edward Fryer, a physician, and General Francisco Miranda who owned an extensive library. When Barry died in 1806 he left Margaret enough money to pursue her studies with the help of his colleagues, Miranda and Fryer. In 1809, after three years of secret schooling, the decision was made to dress Margaret as a boy, so she could go to university in Edinburgh to study medicine. In 1812 Margaret became James Miranda Barry and joined the British Army, as a doctor. Her sexuality was not revealed until her death in 1865. It is said her body showed signs of having given birth. Dr James Miranda Barry was the first surgeon to perform Caesarean surgery in the UK.

The "History Bearing" series is designed to reveal historical stories of women whom art history has not represented honestly or at all. By placing pregnant women in historical costume I am readjusting the way the female body was historically represented. In addition to this, given that the historical narratives within the works are based on claimed true stories, the work is also revealing a history about the chosen subjects not commonly known or (visually) accessible.

About Rowena Hall

Rowena Hall is a emerging photo-media artist who has worked in the Arts for almost 20 years. In addition to her experience in the performing arts, she has worked as the Workshop Manager at the Australian Centre of Photography, participated on the Board of Directors for First Draft Gallery before spending nearly 6 years with the Australian Film, Television and Radio School in Sydney. This involved working within the Cinematography, Research, Digital Media and Foundation Diploma departments of the AFTRS. In 2010 she completed her Masters of Visual Arts in Photo-media at and graduated with her MVA from Sydney of University in 2011.

Rowena’s visual life began when receiving a second-hand Nikon FG20 SLR camera as a thank you for voluntary work on a low budget Tasmanian feature film in 1992. It was the beginning of a journey into ‘seeing’ where, teaching herself how to use the camera, she photographed her local and international experiences whilst working in the performing arts over a five-year period. The photographic work resulted in an invitation to attend the Tasmanian School of Art in 1996 to study photography and art. In 1998 Rowena transferred back home and completed her BVA degree at Sydney College of the Arts in 1999.

The work experience Rowena has gained, including stage management, set building, lighting, and film stills combined with her art practice has resulted in her producing a new body of photographic work reminiscent of tableaux vivant and cinematic stills. This current work, History Bearing is a conceptual continuation of her work in photographing pregnant women which she has practiced for many years. Rowena is dedicated to human rights, particularly women and girls, where much work to create safety and equality is still very much ongoing globally.