Death of the Infants, 1983, oil on linen, 74" x 96"
Inspired by Lenart Nilsson’s revolutionary photographs in A Child is Born
by Axel Ingleman-Sundberg and Claes Wirsen published in 1965, and moved by the tragic death of my friends’ newborn baby, I began the series Hidden Power
with the painting Death of the Infants
. With each succeeding painting I moved from depicting the embryo and fetus to more microscopic forms of life. Faceless chromosomes, anonymous messengers sent to create future life, began to dance in fields of color. The more I pondered this newly revealed interior world, the farther I moved from the sorrow which compelled me to paint Death of the Infants
. This series ended with a triumphant celebration of birth.
I began painting the Hidden Power series in 1983 before the extensive exploitation of these amazing images of life in utero by the so-called Right to Life movement, which brought them into the political arena of Roe vs. Wade controversy. I resent the polarization of these beautiful images that belong to us all. In their passionate frenzy to protect the unborn, the Right to Life movement has taken human lives. Considering life beginning within a woman’s womb should be contemplated by Pro-Choice advocates. But to think of this tiny being as separate from the woman who carries it is not yet possible. The picture is incomplete without considering all involved in the difficult decision to have or not to have an abortion. To be Pro Choice in the best sense is to have a reverence for all life.
Legal issues are irrevocably bound to images about human reproduction. I can no longer see my own paintings without knowledge of the dreadful battles that have taken place over the Roe vs. Wade debate. There will be arguments as these issues evolve along with scientific advances in the fields of infertility and genetic engineering. I hope that those who view my paintings without knowledge of my personal stories can put aside their political biases letting these images speak. The visual language of art can elevate our spirits and help us to return these legal battles to the courtroom where they should be addressed with dignity and respect for all human life.
Artist’s Statement 1994