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BIRTHDANCE (birth paintings)

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Published on May 14, 2011

Paintings and poem may be found at my website: http://www.brendaclews.com/p/blog-pag...

On the paintings:

THE BODY IS FOR BLOSSOMING

...pigment of flesh flowing under my fingers, magenta, alizarin crimson, cerulean blue, cyan green, cadmium yellow, dark violet, colour so rich it's almost edible, bodyscapes of colour, landscapes of fertility, erupting in the swirl of water and paint...

When I was pregnant, my body changed in fundamental and drastic ways. It was a crisis: the freedom of an old self was dying to make way for the mother I would become.

The "Birth Series" paintings became a visual journey of my changing body, a way to comprehend what I was undergoing in the tumble of hormones as my belly grew. The paintings focus on the woman who conceives and carries a baby into life, who nourishes and awaits the child who will hopefully emerge from the nine-month gestation of her body like a dream become real.

In reaction to an increasing invisibility in the world: the averted gaze, perhaps arising out of a cultural discomfort with the swollen belly, I wished to present the pregnant body as sensual and sacred. Despite my desire to confound the categories of alluring woman and maternal body, I found myself deep in the mystery of creation itself.

At the beginning of the series, the body is portrayed clearly; as the forces of labour, birth and then breastfeeding unfold, the clarity shifts into flowing colours suggesting the transformative experience that carrying and delivering and breastfeeding a baby is.

These paintings are about a rite of passage, about the strangest body on earth, about the mind-blowing transformation of skin, belly, heart and perception of the self, as a woman ripens and delivers her fragile and beautiful fruit, the newborn, a miracle of the world.

On the poem:

BIRTHDANCE took two years to write. In 1987, after my first child, my son, was born, I tried to write about birth. At the time, I was unable to find any poetry or literature by women on what giving birth 'felt' like, on their inner birthing experience, and I wasn't sure how to express those powerful birthing hours. It took some years, and many revisions as I worked towards how to express this powerful moment of my life, and finally chose to allow the stages of labour to structure the poem. Each woman has a different experience of birth, the many stories, poems and artwork by women in the last decade or two have been an important sharing of what was previously hidden.
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The Birth Paintings and BIRTHDANCE were painted and composed from 1986-1989.

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