Amanda Greavette’s “You’ve Got Roots”
Artist Amanda Greavette has devoted considerable energy to representations of pregnant and birthing women. In her artist statement for the Birth Project, Greavette explains that these painted images of birth mark one of the most profound experiences available to humans during 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. Her first two were born in hospitals, but her third child arrived quickly at home in an unassisted birth because her labor had progressed so rapidly. The story of that birth reminds other women that birth is a natural, physiological process, and Greavette knew how to act during her labor and when birthing her son even as she awaited her midwife.
Greavette’s painting, You’ve Got Roots, is almost 6 feet tall and was part of her 2010 exhibit, Living in the Body, which was 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. In visualizing birth through the painting, 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 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.
There is a calmness to many of the faces of Greavette’s laboring women. Looking at the positions of the figures aids other pregnant women because the manners of resting and holding of one’s own body in the paintings 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. These paintings are reminders of birth’s relationship to nature and also 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, visit her Etsy shop or see her website information.