An Australian artist is spreading awareness for endometriosis across the globe after painting a portrait of Lena Dunham.
The Girls star shared Ellie Kammer’s painting on her personal Instagram. The oil on linen piece, titled Property of Lena, has since received nearly 50,000 likes.
Lena and Ellie are two of the 176 million women in the world affected by endometriosis – and have both worked tirelessly to give their silent suffering a voice.
Ellie began painting women who have endometriosis when she was diagnosed in 2015. She reached out to Lena in June, hoping to share some of her work.
Australian artist Ellie Kammer, 26, has created this portrait of Girls star Lena Dunham as part of her collection of work illustrating women who suffer from endometriosis
Ellie (pictured) began painting women’s bloodied bodies after she was diagnosed with endometriosis following a laparoscopy in 2015
‘I noticed that Lena shares artworks to express herself sometimes and I thought my paintings might resonate with her,’ Ellie, 26, told Daily Mail Australia.
‘You expect someone with a career like Lena’s to never respond to see your message, but Lena replied and requested that I send a catalogue of available works.’
Ellie, of Adelaide, then asked Lena in July if she could paint her, and the Girls star immediately said yes.
‘I wanted to paint Lena specifically because I’ve been following her career for some time and you can’t help but be moved by her efforts to raise awareness,’ she said.
‘But Lena does more than just raise awareness, she proudly and loudly fights for women’s rights.’
Painting the Hollywood star didn’t feel too different for Ellie, who has been painting powerful women battling the horrific condition for years.
Lena and Ellie are two of the 176 million women in the world affected by endometriosis, and they have both worked to give their silent suffering a voice
Painting the Hollywood star didn’t feel too different for Ellie, who has been painting powerful women battling a horrific condition for years
Ellie and Lena discussed what the artist wanted to achieve before starting the painting, and she used a photo as a drawing reference.
‘We agreed on a portrait that wouldn’t be a vanity-type of portrait because it doesn’t suit her character,’ Ellie said.
‘It needed to be raw and open like she is. Then I just painted her as I see and feel her.’
Ellie titled the piece ‘Property of Lena’ to symbolise how the actress reclaims ownership of a body that had been ravaged by the condition.
‘Having a chronic disease, having strangers touch you and jumping onto a theatre bed and knowing you’re about to be stripped and invaded can have an impact on a person’s sense of dignity and ownership of their own body,’ she said.
‘Lena has set an example for all of us to own our bodies and love them for what they are, and that’s really the message I wanted to convey.’
Ellie hopes to continue giving a voice to endometriosis sufferers through her paintings, and to bust the stigmas attached to the disease
She was ‘very disheartened’ after receiving her diagnosis, with doctors telling her the condition was incurable and may affect her ability to have children
WHAT IS ENDOMETRIOSIS?
Endometriosis is present when the tissue that is similar to the lining of the uterus (womb) occurs outside this layer and causes pain and/or infertility.
The lining layer is called the endometrium and this is the layer of tissue that is shed each month with menstruation (period) or where a pregnancy settles and grows.
Symptoms include fatigue, irregular bleeding, pain during or after sex, pain when you urinate, pain in your pelvic region, lower back or legs and trouble holding on when you have a full bladder, or having to go frequently.
Source: Endometriosis Australia
Although Ellie admits she at first felt ‘somewhat uneasy’ having her work displayed to Lena’s 3.2 million followers, she also appreciated the chance to help raise awareness.
Ellie hopes to continue giving a voice to endometriosis sufferers through her paintings, and to bust the stigmas attached to the disease.
‘I completely oppose the idea that it’s an issue that belongs only to women and shouldn’t be talked about openly. It’s a problem for everyone,’ she said.
‘Regular surgery is invasive and inconvenient. Hormone treatment comes with all kinds of side effects and issues and in around half of cases it causes infertility. It can cause mental health problems and problems in relationships. It has a huge impact.’
Ellie is hosting an online international auction of ‘Property of Lena’ on November 26, and will donate all profits to Endometriosis Australia.
Ellie has received a mixed reaction to the paintings, with some telling her that they are ‘confronting’ or ‘uncomfortable’
But Ellie wanted to communicate endometriosis’ effects in a visual way, and found it to be an incredible emotional release as well
‘I want to raise awareness for endometriosis on a grand scale, until everyone knows what it is, how to best treat it, and how to best support someone who has it,’ she said.
It was after her endometriosis surgeries that Ellie began to paint women’s bodies, including her own, to illustrate the toll of the condition.
‘I felt completely isolated,’ she said. No one had ever spoken to me openly about endometriosis.’
‘I didn’t understand what was going on inside my body and I felt people struggled to relate to what I was going through.’
Ellie wanted to illustrate the reality of living with endometriosis – and all the pain and blood that comes with it – and found it to be an incredible emotional release as well.
Ellie has also met people who adore how the work reaches out to those who are trying to understand a change in their own bodies and gives a voice to endometriosis sufferrers
‘Taking the pain and transforming it into beautiful colours and textures has taken a weight out of me that was really bringing me to the ground,’ she said.
‘I’m not a very vocal person, I tend to just let things fester inside me rather than talk about them. Painting has helped me stay emotionally balanced.’
Ellie has received mixed reactions to the paintings, with some telling her that they are ‘confronting’ or ‘uncomfortable’.
But she has also met people who ‘adore’ how the work reaches out to those who are trying to understand their changing bodies.
‘The paintings can speak to all kinds of people, and provide comfort for those that have lost control of their bodies or are dealing with anything disabling in life.’