Linda Ogonowski is a neurodivergent German-born painter, draughtsman, sculptor, costumier, scenic painter, and production designer. Her work also explores prejudice and the abject body in the context of invisible disability and poverty.

This illustration, ‘The “Abject” Body Revolts!’ by Linda Ogonowski, is a landscape-oriented image composed of both hand-drawn and digitally collaged components. In the background are drawn various civic buildings, including Olympia Milk Bar in Petersham, Sydney, which is drawn in colour, and Flinders Street Station in Melbourne, which is rendered in sepia tones. Behind these buildings is a light blue sky, mostly misted over with what appears to be wispy, white cloud cover. In the top left corner we see a black-and-white, hand-drawn breast, with the white ‘mist’ streaming from the nipple. In the top right corner, behind Olympia Milk Bar, two black-and-white faces grin wildly as they float in the sky. In the middleground and foreground, six more hand-drawn breasts wreak havoc on the scene. Two small breasts run on a patch of grass, spurting milk. On their feet are vintage shoes from the 1940s. Another breast, wearing similar shoes, is spraying light blue shaving foam onto an antique telephone, which is stacked on top of a pile of open notebooks, next to a typewriter. Another breast positioned to the right of the image, with wavy, bobbed hair, is standing on a fire alarm between the Milk Bar and Station buildings. From a window at the front of the Milk Bar, another breast bursts forth, shattering the glass. This breast’s nipple is coloured a light blue, and there is a bandaid on its underside, with a small, red spot at its centre. A milkshake, coloured with bright magenta pencil, is spilled below this breast. Finally, in the centre-front of the image, a tall breast with a light, wavy bob smokes a cigarette. The cigarette itself, rendered in orange and white, is positioned at the breast’s nipple. It emits a small puff of the same white mist which covers the sky.
Illustration: THE ‘ABJECT’ BODY REVOLTS! by Linda Ogonowski*

I was pitching to a roomful of people who were all smiling. The air in the room was thick. The week before I had had surgery to remove a tumour from my breast, but I hadn’t told anyone in the room in case it seemed unprofessional. I pitched my idea, about a play based on the friendship between artist Joy Hester and patron Sunday Reed: an intense, consuming relationship. As I started to talk about the idea, I began to leak. It manifested first in my eyes and then my nose. Salt and mucus. The stitches holding my new wound together split and breast tissue began to leak, porous, through my white shirt and, as if in sympathy, my sweat glands went into overdrive and soon the table was awash with my bodily fluids. Everyone was very polite. They kept smiling and nodding as if I was saying something very important that they hadn’t heard before. About the value of female friendship and the difficulty of making art. About power and illness and death. All characters in the play I pitched, I should note, are played by breasts. Post-menopausal breasts, which are the most likely kind of breasts to get a particular kind of breast cancer. This is not the type I had as I like to be different, but in this play we see the range of full, soft, pendulous, hanging, limp, sack-like, nothing-more-than-a-fingerful breasts and they are nothing but trouble. They are getting into it all over town, these breasts. Whether they are lopped off or simply sliced into, they have lives of their own and they will not be told where to hang or how to be or what to do any longer. These breasts are breaking into milk bars and stealing packets of Winnie Blues. They are finding telephones in office buildings and spraying shaving foam into them. The breasts are turning on sprinkler systems in fancy gardens of big houses. They are setting off fire alarms at government buildings. The company may not have the budget for this to be a promenade piece as intended. So I have devised that the audience will sit quietly, each nursing a breast on their lap, listening as each breast tries to explain where it has been and what time they call this! Each breast just needs to be held and stroked softly until the play ends. As I left the meeting, the company manager patted my arm, said that was great, you did so well! By then the others were all just foreheads bobbing in the ocean of my fluids. I felt bad but they were all on salary. To be honest I don’t know if any of them survived. I hope someone was taking notes and that they saw potential in my work. I hold my breath. Breast. Stroking softly. I am still waiting to hear back.

* Copyright information for sources used in Linda Ogonowski’s collage illustration:
1. BREASTS: ID 35141537 © Nobilior |
2. BREASTS: Photo 239333723 / Breasts © Starast |
3. BREASTS: Photo 160629072 / Breasts © Ronald Rampsch |
4. SHAVING FOAM: Photo 23071236 © Michael Gray |
5. VINTAGE PHONE: Photo 11256402 © Filipe Varela |
6. VINTAGE TYPEWRITER: Photo 16642541 © Paul E R Orr |
7. BLUE WATER SPLASH: Photo 31871788 © Dimitarmitev |
9. VINTAGE FELT HAT: Photo 27171476 © Leerodney Avison |