Pregnant Artist Self-Portrait
During my ninth month of pregnancy, I created a series of drawings of my child to be, Nicole, as I imagined her inside of me. It was a way to survive the death of my first child Paula that occurred when I was pregnant with Nicole. In the midst of such continuing grief, I was nevertheless aware of artistic self-authorship: “Here is my body, my child is within, and I am drawing myself as both a woman artist and an expectant mother!”
The drawing is oil crayon on paper --a greasy, rough, expressionistic, scribbly medium that allows for no changes. My natural drawing scale is just larger than life size and the color choices are emotional. While I stare myself down in the mirror, I review fetus development in birth manuals to prepare for a natural Lamaze childbirth.
I had been trained to perform like male artists--the "universal" model of the time. After having been through a death as a mother at the young age of 24, I needed my art to visualize a healthy life for the new baby. In 1964, when Abstract Expressionism was giving way to Minimalism, I was a recent University of Colorado MFA graduate living in Paris. After my child Nicole was born, I continued to chronicle her life from infancy to her own pregnancies and motherhood. Well before the feminist art movement encouraged us to examine and respect our experiences as women, I chose to weave my life as a mother into my art.