Amanda Greavette’s “You’ve Got Roots”
Artist Amanda Greavette has devoted considerable energy to representations of pregnant and birthing women. As she explains in the artist statement to her Birth Project, Greavette has painted these images of birth to mark one of the most profound and powerful moments that humans experience in life.
Greavette’s paintings and her own personal birth stories are helpful to other pregnant women as they approach their own labors. The artist has three children, the first two of whom were born in hospitals. However, not only was her third child born at home, but the artist was unassisted, ultimately birthing the child by herself because her labor had progressed so rapidly. The story of that birth is an inspiration for other women, reminding them that birth is a natural, physiological process. Instinctively, Greavette knew how to act during her labor and when birthing her son.
The painting above (see full image below) is almost 6 feet tall and was part of her 2010 exhibit, Living in the Body, held at Gallery 1313 in Toronto. Surrounded by floating leaves, the painted figure labors in an upright position with hands on knees, supported by a bed of tree roots that reach deep into the earth. The composition blends the woman’s form with the natural setting around her, and she labors on her own in the tranquil setting of the forest. With eyes closed, the expression on the woman’s face is serene. It is helpful for other pregnant women to focus on the woman’s mouth and jaw, both of which remain relaxed. As many midwives and childbirth educators advise, an open, relaxed mouth during labor encourages other parts of the body to open up (clenched teeth, jaw and mouth have the opposite effect). This openness spreads throughout the body. The viewer almost senses the full, humming breaths rising deep from within the painted figure’s body, emerging from her parted lips. The woman appears comfortable and natural in her pose, her thighs spread while her hands rest strongly on her knees.
There is a calmness to many of the faces of Greavette’s laboring women. The positions of the figures are helpful for other pregnant women to look at because these positions all emphasize the natural use of gravity as an aid in the birthing process. Greavette’s figures often labor on their own or with one assistant, and in one of them, a woman births her child entirely unassisted, looking down at the newborn infant who lies beneath her in a field (see image below). All of the artist’s works are empowering for other women to observe because these paintings are reminders both of the naturalness of birth and of the way that a woman’s calmness helps her as she labors.
Amanda Greavette is a Canadian artist who lives and works in Ontario. In addition to painting and working in her community, Greavette is raising four children. She is also a La Leche League leader. To view more of Greavette’s work or to visit her Etsy shop, see her website information.