Visualizing Birth in France White’s “The House of Life”
In this intricate and colorful drawing, artist France White, SHCJ, creates a beautiful visualization of the passage of life encompassed within a spiritual home. We see the birth of a child in the attic, scenes full of life in the middle of the house, and the end of life and death in the basement. With its bright colors and cheery figures, the art piece fills the viewer with a sense of energy, togetherness and love.
The piece helps with the visualization of birth, allowing the viewer a glimpse at a home birth as the infant emerges from its mother. The mother rests in a squatting or seated position, a position that is helpful in using gravity to help the child down and out of her body. Her partner holds the mother tenderly while a midwife gently crouches over and catches the baby during birth.
The drawing reminds other pregnant women that they are not alone in the world and that they are accompanied by a lineage of women from the past who have also given birth. This reminder can be helpful because pregnancy and even the experience of birth itself can make a woman feel isolated. The image offers us a tranquil suggestion to remember that events of birth are intimately connected to one another, and just as our maternal ancestors gave birth, so do we.
The drawing also makes the important connection between birth and death, letting us know that these two rites of passage, as well as every human activity that takes place between them, are integral parts of the human experience.
Writing for the Society of the Holy Child Jesus in a piece that France White has shared with me, she describes the meaning of the piece, a meaning which is deep, lovely and spiritual:
THE HOUSE OF LIFE was begun on October 28, 1992 in the air between Portland, Oregon and Los Angeles. My heart and mind were full of the beginning and ending of life and my eyes were full of tears. My large family and I had spent the previous week with my father who was dying. Each day during that week my niece Christine, who was about to give birth, spent several hours at Dad’s house. It is no wonder that I visualized a drawing about all that life encompasses.
Because a home shelters our being as we move through the various aspects of living I used the framework of a house to put shape to my vision.
As I started the drawing, I decided to depict
BIRTH in the attic and
DEATH in the basement.
As the weeks followed, images emerged of what I consider to be the ingredients of life that I hope each person will find. I put a different aspect of life in each room;
LOVE AND ROMANCE.
Many images fill these “rooms” of life and the house is surrounded by Spirit-Beings.
Because the essence of art is the interaction between the art and the beholder, what the viewer sees in these images or interprets the parts to mean is as important and correct as what I intended . So, behold and live/relive your life.
The House of Life is dedicated with love to those who inspired it:
my father, Leo,
his granddaughter Christine
and her daughter Rachael.
We are grateful that France White shared this image with the Visualizing Birth community. To view more of her work, see this page. She may be reached through email at: firstname.lastname@example.org