Art and the Menopause Transition

A woman’s art shouts louder when she’s trying to be silenced.

Did you know that October is Menopause Awareness Month? It’s been fascinating to discover the lack of research, education and access to care for older women – not to mention the disinformation! The treatment gap for menopause is an injustice to women and we need to shout louder to ensure that women are able to make informed decisions about their health as they age.

A Yale University review of insurance claims found that while 60% of women with significant menopausal symptoms seek treatment, nearly 75% are left untreated.

Art is a channel for women to use their creativity to highlight their lived experiences and share their wisdom, strength and resilience through the menopause transition. Creating art with the collective wisdom of women that have walked or are walking this path will shed light on the journey for those still heading there while holding space for those women in the thick of it and acknowledging those who have bravely battled through it to post menopause. 

If you’ve seen one menopausal woman you’ve seen one menopausal woman- changes and symptoms occur In unique combinations in each woman and support and treatment options vary depending on where she finds herself in the world.

Since 2009, the IMS (International Menopause Society) alongside the World Health Organization (WHO) designate October as World Menopause Awareness Month. It’s an opportunity to speak openly about the experiences and resilience of women. These conversations can help to break the silence about the menopause transition and highlight the areas where more support and understanding is needed. Get creative during your menopause journey and let others know that they are not alone in grappling with the changes that this natural process brings.

With this in mind I’m organizing an art show called “Post Period.” that will be launched in Menopause Awareness Month, 2024. A multi-pronged approach to communicating the challenges and impact of menopause is required so women have an opportunity to understand the mental and physical impacts of hormonal changes.

Art is an avenue that can spark conversations, question the status quo, and challenge misconceptions while also providing an opportunity for self-expression and catharsis.  

Have you made any menopause related or inspired art ? This is your sign to embrace your third act and create unapologetically! Creativity has no age limit!

Ai and Artists, partners or opponents in the battle for creative supremacy?

AI and artists can be seen as both partners and opponents in the battle for creative supremacy. That’s if creative supremacy is even a thing. On one hand, AI can assist artists by providing new tools and techniques for creation, allowing them to explore new avenues of expression and push the boundaries of what is possible. For example, AI can help artists generate new ideas and designs, automate tedious tasks, and even create new artworks from scratch.

I spent some time working with DALL E yesterday and used one of my images to initiate a DALL E Variation and the result is below with the original “African Daisy in a Bottle” on the left. I also tried out the website Images.AI to generate a 3D version of the Joa Jerboa character I had created with some interested results (included at the end of this post). There are definitely more creative avenues to explore on the road to producing engaging and interesting images.

Original photo (left) and AI enhanced image variation (right) using DALL E

On the other hand, AI can also be seen as a threat to the traditional notion of the artist as the sole creator of a work of art. This is because AI-generated art challenges the idea of authorship and originality, as well as raises questions about the value of human creative effort. In some cases, AI-generated artworks may even be indistinguishable from those created by humans, making it difficult to attribute value to a particular artist’s work.

There’s an interesting exhibit at the MIT Museum that explores the nature of art and artists through the lens of technology advancements and the places and spaces where art and Ai coalesces or collides. John Durant, Director, MIT Museum said “We’re here to turn MIT inside out. We want people to understand what contemporary research and innovation are all about and what they mean for everyday life.” Watch the video on PBSO News Hour here.

Ultimately, the relationship between AI and artists is complex and multi-faceted. While AI has the potential to both enhance and undermine the creative process, the future of art and creativity will likely be shaped by the way that artists and technologists collaborate and interact with each other. Some see AI as an opportunity to expand the creative possibilities and explore new forms of expression, while others see it as a threat to the unique role of the artist in the creation of art.

Posing questions and inviting dialogue is a good place to begin to unravel the possibilities and the pitfalls as the technology develops.

Jerboa generated by Images.AI

ps. This blog post was a collaboration between myself and AI text generator ChatGPT

Visual Art and AI – by OpenAI’s ChatGPT

On #SpousesDay my husband and I were having a conversation about AI and it’s potential from the perspective of our industries – his being science and mine being visual arts. He mentioned an article by Rahul Mandlik. “ChatGPT Poised to Disrupt Medical Affairs“. We then started a dialogue with ChatGPT (created by OpenAI to ‘extend the reach and creativity of the human brain’) and posed questions about the future of Visual Art and AI. Here’s what transpired.

Rose Caressed by Light (not an AI generated image) by Vanessa Lee Thomas

Q: What will be the impact of AI on the future of visual arts and artists?

A: AI has the potential to have a significant impact on the future of visual arts and artists. On the one hand, AI algorithms and tools can help artists create new forms of art and make the creative process more efficient. For example, AI-powered tools can be used to generate new images, animations, and videos, or to assist with tasks such as color correction, compositing, and 3D modeling. Additionally, AI can be used to analyze and understand art, which can help scholars and curators better understand the context and meaning behind certain works.

On the other hand, some people worry that the increasing use of AI in the art world could lead to the commodification and devaluation of art, as well as the displacement of human artists by AI-generated works. Ultimately, the impact of AI on the future of visual arts and artists will likely depend on how it is used and the values that guide its development.

Q: So is it only the ethics of the users that will constrain the AI impact?

A: Ethics is certainly one important factor that will shape the impact of AI on the future of visual arts and artists. The values and intentions of the users, developers, and stakeholders involved in the creation and use of AI in the art world will play a crucial role in determining how it is employed and what its effects will be.

However, it’s not only the ethics of the users that will constrain the AI impact. Technical limitations and the state of the art in AI research also play a role. For example, current AI technology may not yet be advanced enough to fully replace human artists or to create truly “original” works of art. Additionally, the legal framework surrounding AI-generated art and copyright may also shape the extent to which AI is used in the art world.

In summary, it’s a combination of the ethics, technical limitations, and legal framework that will shape the impact of AI on the future of visual arts and artists.

Q: Can the legal framework keep pace with the technical development and progress of AI?

A: The legal framework surrounding AI-generated art and copyright can be complex and may not always keep pace with the technical development and progress of AI.

One of the main challenges in this area is determining the legal status of AI-generated works of art. Some argue that such works should be considered original and protected by copyright, while others believe they should be treated as derivative works or even not protected by copyright at all. Additionally, the question of who should be considered the “author” or “creator” of an AI-generated work of art can also be complex.

Another challenge is that AI technology is rapidly evolving, and it can be difficult for lawmakers to keep up with the latest developments and to anticipate how they might be used in the future. This means that laws and regulations may become outdated quickly, and may not effectively address new issues and challenges that arise as AI technology advances.

That being said, it’s important to note that many legal experts, organizations and researchers are working to keep up with the technical development and progress of AI and to ensure that laws and regulations are updated to address the unique challenges posed by AI.

In summary, keeping pace with the technical development and progress of AI in the legal framework surrounding AI-generated art and copyright can be complex and challenging, but it is important to ensure that laws and regulations are updated to address the unique challenges posed by AI and to promote fair and ethical use of the technology.

Central Parkway (not an AI generated image) by Vanessa Lee Thomas

Q:How can creators most effectively leverage the power of AI?

A: Creators can most effectively leverage the power of AI by understanding the capabilities and limitations of the technology, and by using it in conjunction with their own creativity and expertise.

Here are a few ways that creators can effectively leverage the power of AI:

  • Use AI to assist with tasks that are repetitive or time-consuming, such as image editing, compositing, and animation.
  • Use AI to generate new ideas or inspiration by experimenting with different algorithms and input data.
  • Use AI to analyze and understand art, which can help to better understand the context and meaning behind certain works.
  • Use AI to explore new forms of art that would not be possible with traditional methods.
  • ncorporate AI-generated elements into your work, but always consider the ethical implications and make sure that the final work is clearly attributed and copyrighted.

However, it’s also important to note that AI is not a replacement for human creativity and expertise. Creators should use AI as a tool to enhance and augment their own skills, rather than relying solely on the technology to generate their work. By combining the power of AI with their own creativity, creators can push the boundaries of what is possible and create truly unique and innovative works of art.

What do you think?

Why feminist photography?

A woman’s perceived value in society is constantly being underestimated and undermined and this is true too in the world of art. 

‘Shackled’ by Vanessa Thomas First appearance at the ‘No Boundaries’ Art Show hosted by the Dublin Arts Collective at the F. Co Gallery in Dublin, California

My first blog post in 2022 echoed similar sentiments and the loss of economic power and agency for females continues its downward trend.

Societal trauma following the first pandemic in 100 years seems to have resulted in increased misogyny and oppression of women globally in what I surmise is the patriarchy’s attempt to regain some sense of power and control in a world where we have discovered that we have rather little.

The situation has had a profound impact on my art and has ignited the fires of my feminist heart. It has always burned beneath the surface but the cold clutches of fear caged it. Floral photography is my usual playground as a way to find my flow and cope with the increasing pressures of life while offering some respite to the onslaught of negative news and climate change anxiety. So in a dramatic departure from my usual subject matter my muse emboldened me to create two works of feminist photography.

Every creative soul knows the feeling of being imbued with an idea that needs to be brought to life. To take the tacit dream and make it explicit. 

In a creative collaboration with fellow artist May Yin Giang the photographs ‘Shackled’ and ‘A Woman’s Grief’ were  brought into existence representing the anguish, frustration, grief and ire experienced by women following recent events. The images were captured on location at Dublin Pioneer Cemetery in California. 

Overturning Roe vs Wade and the subsequent impact on reproductive rights and a loss of bodily autonomy that has further oppressed the vulnerable and compounded the struggles of those already at the bottom of the economic food chain were the catalysts for creating ‘Shackled’ that provides a window into women’s suffering.  Women’s rights are human rights yet they appear to not carry the same weight as men’s rights. 

In ‘A Woman’s Grief’ the anguish of the losses faced by women is placed in the context of societal structures (including religious structures) built to contain, dominate and exploit the nurturing nature of women who have the power to produce life but are not empowered through it. Her innate strength though is reflected in the green hues of hope representing persistence in the face of horrors of the wounds inflicted by society. 

The responses to this work have been intriguing. Many have been surprised at the level of emotion elicited in response to it but others have been unable to fully allow themselves to uncap the bottle of thoughts and feelings that arise. 

If we can hide a woman’s pain we don’t need to find a remedy. 

‘A Woman’s Grief’ by Vanessa Thomas First appearance at the Pleasanton Art League Fall Members Show at the Harrington Gallery in Pleasanton, California

The feminine form is beguiling in the art world but art produced by females is deemed to have less intrinsic value compared to that produced by males. An interesting glimpse into the stats was recently presented in the Burns Halperin Report and commented on in an article by Katya Kazakina in Art News “Who’s afraid of women of a certain age? The market still dramatically undervalues female artists – but there’s more to the story.” that I saw posted on @artgirlrising. It begs the question – why? 

Women are exploited and preyed upon in their youth and child-bearing years and discarded and made invisible as they age. There was a time not so long ago when it felt like women where claiming their space and owning the incredible power of their bodies and minds. The show on Netflix “Feminists – What were they thinking?” includes the work of photographer Cynthia MacAdams and discusses 1970s portraits of women that reflected a feminist awakening and captures women being who they want to be and the images are both striking and empowering. 

Our art holds a mirror to society and the current reflection is grim. Yet we persist in pursuing the ideal that all women and girls will one day be free to reach their full potential and live without the constant fear of violence. 

There’s so much more to say but I’ll end with a quote from the book “A Radical Awakening” by Dr Shefali (page 173) 

Culture and in particular, the patriarchy are deathly afraid of the awakened and empowered woman. She is a threat to the status quo. A woman who is no longer docile, quiet, servile and dependent? No longer willing to compromise her worth for another’s comfort and well-being? No longer willing to take second place except when she consciously chooses to do so? That woman? Do you know what power she houses within her? She is a force to be reckoned with.

* Footnote ‘Shackled’ will be on show at the Museum on Main in the Imagination Expressed Show of the Pleasanton Art League from January 28 to March 25, 2023. 

Buy Prints of “Shackled” here.


I’m a photographer, will AI image generators make me redundant?

Artists are driven to create but also need to make a living – how will AI impact their lives ?

Floral photography is where I dance with my creativity and when planning for 2023 there is one glaring technological advancement that will undeniably alter the trajectory of my art journey – AI image generators (not to mention other AI tools for image enhancement).

Chrysanthemum by Vanessa Thomas

While setting out my list of art shows for the year and reading about current trends and developments, there is an undercurrent of both trepidation and excitement. AI Image Generators are essentially able to generate new images using keywords and reference images. The software learns from the reference image pool and generates faces, places and spaces never seen before and the results are astounding. Examples include DALL-E 2 , Craiyon, Midjourney, Dall-E, Stable Diffusion Online and DALL-E FLOW to name but a few and there are many others on the horizon.

AI image generators are here and they’re here to stay. Trying to deny or downplay the impact they will have on the visual arts community is like trying to deny climate change – the facts are there and the impact will happen whether you choose to acknowledge it or not – in fact the impact has already been felt in the creative industry.

Does AI Art or traditional art have more value? As an exhibiting photographer I have already experienced the ostracization by artists using more traditional media – especially from those who paint – as for some, photography is not considered an art form requiring an equivalent level of skill. It appeared to me that art that took relatively longer to produce held more value. Even certain online platforms I’ve used to sell my work had a separate login for ‘artists’ and ‘photographers’. ‘Art gatekeeping’ is a topic for another post though. Currently the novelty of AI art makes it trendy which means people want to own it – will this shrink opportunities for sale of traditional artwork? On my social media feeds it was evident many were willing to pay to upload reference images of their faces in order to see a stylized AI generated version and they were happy to share them as well. I don’t know when last I’ve seen someone who is not an artist, share a painted portrait of their visages!

Will owning traditional art become an elitist practice with only a niche following? People love making and creating work themselves so they have the option to adorn their walls and spaces with art ‘made by me’.

I’m no AI expert but as an artist I’m already a part of this creative evolutionary step – and my participation was not voluntary- after doing some online reading I came across the following website allowing artists to search the data pool / training data used as source images to teach the AI image generators and low and behold my original photographs (currently for sale) are already included! Images were taken without permission or acknowledgement – so where does this leave me in terms of copyright protection? Yes I can opt out of future internet data scrapes but I have to admit that a part of me was also excited to be included! Want to check if your work is included ? The site is Have I been Trained?

Image: Search Results from Have I been Trained?

It is not unusual for artists using other media to use my images for reference – the main difference is that they ask permission and acknowledge the source. Of course there have always been those unscrupulous types that simply copy images and use them without permission – watermark and all! Digital art and image manipulation opened a new world of opportunity when it was first made available to the public. I recall the early days of creating scientific posters for conferences manually with a printer, scissors and glue and I also recall my jubilation when designing my first poster in CorelDRAW. Systems evolve and we are now in the midst of the AI revolution and as with the industrial revolution – there will be job losses – why would a company pay a graphic artist when they can generate unique, high resolution professional images using AI that will be both cheaper and faster?

There is no doubt in my mind that the world of photography that I currently know is about to change. Questions have already been raised about standards of beauty and perfection in these new images and whether existing biases and forms of discrimination could be altered in the visuals we see. The process of making art however also has intrinsic value – which is why art therapy works. Every revolution brings opportunity. AI art is a new frontier and who better than artists and creative minds to boldly go exploring! It has the power to make the images in your dreams a reality – whether you are able to draw or paint or not – only your imagination is the limit.

A New Year, Feminist recovery and 135.6 years to Gender Parity

Going through my annual ritual of goal-setting for the year ahead and considering the lessons learned from 2021 has been different with the unpredictable surge of Covid-19 and trying to guesstimate the impact it will have when I’m trying to grow a business.

An article written* in 2021 by Ciara Nugent for Time referenced a World Economic Forum report that concluded that the pandemic extended the estimated time to close the global gender gap by 36 years meaning parity (economic opportunity, political power, education and health) between women and men will be reached in approximately 135.6 years!

These are sobering numbers and the statistics do not improve when taking into account women of color for whom jobs have returned more slowly. This is an opportunity to boost feminist recovery, prioritize women-led businesses and create infrastructure and industries that support women’s economic security.

Caregiving and care-work – whether to children, the sick or the elderly – is still largely undertaken by women and therefore not adequately supported or recognized. The pandemic has provided new perspectives on work-life balance, on the need for flexible working conditions, affordable childcare and insight into what makes us most productive at work.

We must persist in finding workable and probably novel solutions. We owe it to ourselves and the economy needs us!

Let us continue to work against what Bonnie Hammer has called the “she-cession”. I wish you well in your endeavors in 2022!

raindrops on red berries
“After the Rain” by Vanessa Thomas

*Nugent, Ciara. Time. April 2021. After a Terrible Year for Women in the Economy, These Places Are Working Toward a Feminist Recovery From COVID-19

Happy World Art Day 2021!

Since it’s World 🌍 Art Day here’s a look into how I created my artwork called “Thankful”.

The title of this image was inspired by a quote by an unknown author that I read on the day I took the original image “I fall, I rise, I make mistakes, I live, I learn, I’ve been hurt but I’m alive. I’m human, I’m not perfect but I’m thankful.”

This image won 1st Place in the Alameda County Fair Fine Art Competition for Alternative Process/ Mixed Media Category in 2021. It was also a featured image in the “Images that Excite” Group and the “A Woman’s Touch” Group on Fine Art America.

Step 1 Original Daffodil Bouquet Photo in Natural light 📸

Daffodil Bouquet by Vanessa Thomas

Step 2 Composite of two photos 🌼 Second photo is of dewdrops on a cobweb

Daffodils and Cobwebs Composite by Vanessa Thomas

Step 3 Digital Watercolor Paint effect in Photoshop 🖼

“Thankful” Digital Watercolor by Vanessa Thomas

Post update August 2022- Delighted to announce that this original image has been SOLD to Scott at my “Colors Inside” show! Congrats and I hope it brings you much joy!

Steps in creating “Thankful”

There is always something to be Thankful for!


Happy first day of Spring to the Northern Hemisphere!

Spring touches each tree and flower with the magic of renewal after winter’s slumber.

Here are some local Spring sights that caught my attention that I hope will bring you a moment to breathe and enjoy!

Photo 1: Orange Daisies Awaiting the Spring Sunshine

to visually demonstrate the beauty of spring
Orange Daisies in Spring

Photo 2: Yellow Daisies Greet the Day

Yellow Daisies in Spring

Photo 3: Spring Colors in the Meadow

Blue Meadow Flower on a backdrop of orange daisies

A Gift of Poetry inspired by Flowers and Floral photography

Photographing flowers is how I like to share moments of beauty in nature. When these photographs inspire others to create it brings deep joy to my being!

Spring to Life by Vanessa Thomas

As Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman said in her recent interview with Trevor Noah – “some cleanse with water but I cleanse with words.”

These words from my yoga-loving friend Danai Christelis speak to the joy that the wonder and beauty of flowers bring to our lives and I am grateful for her gift.

This is the message I received from her…

Your beautiful photography inspired me to write this poem..enjoy!

Those Seeds We Need to Sow.

By Danai Christelis

“Like petals of a flower
What is the intent?
To brighten someone’s sorrow
Apologies not said?
Carnivals and canopies
Fading in the snow
Those petals of the flower
Are they just for show?

Like petals of a flower
What is it all meant?
Words not written by a loved one
Memories of time spent?
Wedding bells and baby showers
Celebrations far and near
Those petals of the flower
Serene and oh so dear

Scattered in a milk bath
Pressed inside a book
Sketched onto a canvas
Left wild to create that look
A pocket full of fantasies
Nature at its best
Ladybirds and dragon flies
Looking for a nest
Like petals of a flower
Where does it all go?
When all things said are forgotten
Those seeds we need to sow!”

Poppy Spring Magic by Vanessa Thomas

VOLUNTEER RECOGNITION: Joyce Moulden Retires after several years as LAA Secretary

The pandemic has not stopped milestone events in the lives of volunteers for our arts organizations and one that needs to be celebrated is that of Joyce Moulden.

Joyce has served the Livermore Arts Association (LAA) community as a dedicated secretarial administrator for several years and has decided it’s time for a change. However, it does not mean that Joyce has ended her support of the arts community and lockdown ushered in new connections and opportunities for her to share her expertise and one example is the Online Tech Team Group consisting of members of the Pleasanton Art League (PAL), Livermore Arts Association (LAA) and Dublin Arts Collective (DAC).

The Group is an off-shoot of a larger collaborative effort between the three Tri-Valley Arts nonprofits (PAL, LAA and DAC) to address technical challenges faced by visual artists as they pivot in the pandemic. PAL President Beth Okurowski initiated the larger Tech Group meetings and the sub-group is led by Christine Watters, Vice President of LAA.

Transitions like these can be intimidating but delving into new ways of doing things and approaching novel problems with courage is not new to Joyce.

“Her attention to detail, willingness to learn and caring and considerate approach has made her a valuable team member as well as a delight to work with,” said Vanessa Thomas, DAC Co-Founder and Fables and Flora Owner. “It has been a joy getting to know her and great to discover that we share an interest in science and literature.”

“It’s been great to get to know Joyce through this process.  She quietly makes corrections and keeps track of us as we have worked at finding our way through new (for us) online processes.  Thank you, Joyce.” – Lorraine Wells, PAL and DAC Board Member.

“Joyce, thanks for your steady support on the board and now with the tech adventures. I always looked forward to meetings at your house. Glad you are along for the tech ride!” – Christine Watters, Vice President and longstanding colleague at LAA

“I have known Joyce for only a couple of months now, but we hit it off immediately; it feels as if we’ve known each for a long time! I have always heard about Joyce and her academic & scientific accomplishments from a common friend, which was exciting coming from a family of scientists myself! Joyce’s expertise & experience keeps the Tech Team on track, encouraged, calm and composed. It has been such a pleasure to know you, dear Joyce, you’re not off the hook yet – you are stuck with us now!! I wish you all the best and look forward to working with you on new and exciting projects!” – Meghana Mitragotri, PAL Board Member and LAA and DAC Member.

We would like to extend the heartiest thank you to Joyce for all that she has done and continues to do for artists in the Tri-Valley.

Can you ‘See My Humanity’?

Jogging down a street

Carrying groceries 

Holding a pair of sneakers 

Walking a dog

Opening a car door 

Black boy wearing a hoodie

What did you see?

A threat ? A child? 

Can you “See My Humanity”?

‘See My Humanity’ artwork by Vanessa Thomas

To read more about the story behind this image visit the Livermore Art Association website.

Footnote: This artwork is currently on show at the Museum on Main as part of the Pleasanton Art League Imagination Expressed art Exhibit Exhibit Dates: January 18 to March 25, 2023

Buy prints of “See My Humanity” here.

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