A version of this article originally appeared on VICE Mexico. Leer en Español.
I discovered my first stretch mark when I was 13 years old. I thought it an enigmatic scar, perhaps a memory of some summer adventure that was ending. “That’s a stretch mark,” my mother said, as she discovered me caressing the mark blooming on my inner thigh. It was a new word for me, and the white line crossing my skin was a mystery.
With "the growth spurt" and the endless string of bodily changes other stretch marks came. I lost count and interest in those marks once I learned that they garnered surprise and rejection in other people. As years passed, I learned to ignore them until I discovered the work of Cinta Tort Cartró, AKA Zinteta, a young Catalan artist who is revolutionizing the way we view stretch marks.
Zinteta paints on her body and the bodies of other women using watercolors, tempera, and acrylics.
Zinteta is 22 years old and from Torrelles de Llobregat, a small town near Barcelona, Spain. Her work explores taboo themes about the female body, ranging from stretch marks to a woman's menstrual cycle. In her work, she reworks the negative connotation that we've culturally given to stretch marks and gives them a new meaning, forcing us to reflect on the construction of beauty stereotypes. I spoke with Zinteta to learn more about her work and the impact she has on other women.
Broadly: What made you want to experiment with stretch marks in art?
Zinteta: I had been working on “I stain and I’m not disgusted,” a project about the feminine menstrual cycle. I wanted to talk about the menstrual cycle; to reflect on this process that women go through, and about which we are given so little information. Through this, I began painting underwear emulating menstruation stains but with colorful watercolors. After painting them I thought about transferring them to the body and photographing them, taking the project to the skin itself.
I continued exploring, and in March 2017, I made an illustration of a woman from behind onto which I intuitively painted stretch marks with watercolors. I painted the ones I have on the left side of my abdomen and I took a photo. After sharing on social media, the impact was surprising. It compelled me to continue my work on the body and fight against the aesthetic pressures women are subjected to.
Did you have doubts or insecurities when you first published these images? What were the repercussions?
I've never had any doubts. I'm always confident in putting up what I put up, in fighting for what I do. I trust in my own creative expression. These images have incited much conversation, they’ve attracted attention now that many people have identified with them.
What made you decide to create work about the feminine universe and its complexities, focusing on many of these characteristics that we’ve been taught to feel ashamed about?
To make them visible, to normalize them, and make others see that they are part of us and will continue to be part of us. My intention is to take everything that they have made us believe are defects, imperfections, things that don’t make us “beautiful,” and show that it’s there and real. Personally, the concept of imperfections in our bodies is something that I don’t understand; Imperfect to whom? All of our bodies have marks, freckles, stretch marks, cellulite, hair, creases, and there are bodies that menstruate. It’s a reality. Why hide it? We spend our lives hating our bodies, having conflicts with ourselves. It’s time to be able to work together to fight against this aesthetic pressure and begin to learn that everything we have is part of us, of our stories.
What impact do you think your work has on other women?
It’s been a tool of empowerment for many people. Beyond what’s visible on my social media (number of likes, comments, messages), I've received many letters and private messages from people thanking me for what I do.
What other projects are you working on right now?
I’m experimenting a lot with pencil and the faces of women of the world. I’m experimenting with elements of nature— I’m using oil again, painting bodies. I am working hard on new exhibitions for this year: I have two exhibitions in Madrid and I’ll have exhibitions in Barcelona, and I’m also working on showing work in Granada and Valencia in the next months.