Crowning, visualization, and labor in the artwork of Swoon

Birth, 2 Color Screen-print on archival museum board
Copyright 2019, Swoon, All Rights reserved.

Brooklyn-based artist, Swoon (Caledonia Curry), known especially for her street art, showed this stop-motion experiment, Birth, 2, as a video in San Francisco’s Chandron Gallery (November 30, 2018  – January 24, 2019). I did not view it but my husband was present and videotaped it. In the video, a baby crowns from the laboring woman before opening into a large calming circle that grows from the woman. Ultimately, the woman and the image become enmeshed with organic formations from the natural world–leaf-like structures, chrysalises, butterflies, etc. The fascinating video begins with the opening of a house, within which spreads the birthing woman.

The still image of the crowning woman, as well as the video, are helpful in the visualization of birth. Rooted against a tree, the woman sits upright, her legs spreading to help the birthing process. She appears calm, hands resting on her full belly, eyes closed and mouth appearing to breath deeply. Previous Visualizing Birth posts have discussed the benefits of birthing in an upright or squatting position (for a few examples, see Feminine Divinity and a Posture for Birth, Sculpture of an Unassisted Birth, Tlazolteotl, Visualizing the Mind Body Connection). Swoon’s image is also helpful because it shows crowning and normalizes it. Many women, and particularly first time mothers, fear the crowning process and do not understand that the woman’s vulva stretches without difficulty during birth to work with the baby during the birthing process. Visualizing Birth has also discussed the benefits of viewing images of crowning to help in understanding the moment at which baby emerges from the laboring body (for a few examples, see Baby Emerging in “Crowning Rose”, Decolonizing Birth, Judy Chicago’s “The Crowning”).

Swoon’s work appears both in the form of street art and within the context of major museum collections and gallery exhibitions. Her art and biographical information is available through her website.