La Popessa

Rowena Hall, 2008

La Popessa
Pope Joan (as she is now known) was born in Mainz, Germany. Denied her desire to be educated and join the Holy Orders, she dressed as a boy and became ‘John Anglius’. Progressing rapidly within the ranks of the Church she was elected Pope around the 850s. Her Papacy was said to have been for just over two and a half years before coming to an abrupt end, when during a public procession through the streets of Rome, she went into labour and gave birth to a son. Stories of the outcome vary, however, most common being that she and her child were killed and buried on the spot. The legend was said truth until the 1600’s when the Catholic Church denounced her existence as a fiction and subsequently removed any memory of her including the dismantling of the infamous bust of ‘Johannes VIII’ which was re-made and replaced by a male figure of Pope Zachary.

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.