Visualizing Birth’s 10th Anniversary Celebrates the Artwork of Lauren J. Turner
Visualizing Birth is 10 years old! In celebration of this milestone anniversary, we are thrilled to honor the beautiful artwork of Baltimore based artist, Lauren J. Turner.
Turner, who is also a stay at home mom and a birth doula, creates magnificent paintings that normalize and pay tribute to women’s birthing bodies, newborn babies, breastfeeding, and the care of birth workers. The artist especially focuses on the African American experience of birth, utilizing her artwork as a way to empower Black women who are either pregnant or are part of a supportive birth circle working to end medical racism against black bodies. This form of racism against Black birthing women and their babies is well-documented and in need of immediate change. Doulas, midwives, nurses, doctors, activists, artists, advocates, and friends can all celebrate birth and Birthing Justice through Turner’s work.
One of Turner’s pieces that is deeply empowering is Pregnant Bodies, pictured above. Here, the artist’s composition focuses on two pregnant bodies, both nude and facing one another, almost as if to merge together. The representation depicts two Black women supporting each other, strong in their own bodies as well as in their community with one another as they approach the end of their pregnancies.
Other women can visualize birth through Turner’s Pregnant Bodies in a number of ways. On a purely formal level, the colors and composition of the painting are calming. Warm tones of brown, light black, and rose permeate the bodies and the space of the artwork, soothing the viewer. The two painted figures also appear confident in their nudity, an aspect of birth that is often overlooked. It is normal to walk, sit, squat, or lie nude when giving birth or at home during pregnancy. This normalization of nudity through painting empowers other pregnant women and may bring them closer to their own naked selves before they go into labor.
The painting also depicts the strength of pregnant bodies. Women are neither weak nor sick when pregnant, a trope often spread in our culture. Instead, they are powerful beings who are ready to bring forth new life. These women appear to be just that–strong, capable, and prepared.
For Black women, the painting provides special validation and empowerment as they approach their own birthing experiences. As explained in other Visualizing Birth posts devoted to the topic of decolonizing birth, Professor Arisika Razak (Philosophy and Religion, Women’s Spirituality, California Institute of Integral Studies), who is also a Registered Nurse Midwife, has expressed the importance of providing Black women with empowering and sacred Afro-centric images of women and birth. Turner’s work provides just that (for other images devoted to the Black experience of birth as discussed on Visualizing Birth, see Beyoncé, Birth, and African Spirituality in the Public Mind; Visualizing the womb through WAK’s “Mother Earth”; Visualizing Pregnancy in Obed Muringani’s “Women Hunters”; Transformation through Birth in Anoa Kanu’s “Girl in Bamboo Earrings”; and Decolonizing Birth).
In her writing on how she created Pregnant Bodies, Turner states:
This original piece was created from a group of photos I received from Jai’Ma Birth. Justina is passionate about bridging the gap in care among black women and bringing awareness to systemic racism in the United States. She is a Birth Doula, CLC & the founder of the Inclusive Coalition.
Viewers also have the opportunity to see Lauren speak about Pregnant Bodies, as well as about the goals she has for her work, in this Facebook Live Video. Lauren is devoted to utilizing her work as a way of supporting other families and women, especially those who are marginalized and low-income, as they experience pregnancy and birth.
Lauren J. Turner lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with her husband two small children. She gave birth to both of her children at home and describes birth as an empowering experiences. To contact Lauren, see more of her birth art, or purchase her prints, visit her website: laurenjturnerfineart.com She is also on Instagram @laurenjturnerfineart and is the Owner of @BirthNerds