Jody Noelle Coughlin Art Blog
I've had a lot of good fortune selling prints of one of my paintings titled Expecting. Expecting is a watercolor painting of a pregnant woman who seems to be very serenely and patiently expecting the arrival of her baby. It is a very pleasant image that seems to send a quiet and hopeful energy to the viewer.
Much to my delight it seems to strike a chord with people in general and women within the healthcare industry in particular. It has been published on-line, it hangs in the offices of massage therapists, obstetricians, physiotherapists and so on. So, in the interest of exploring the theme of an image that seems to resonate so strongly with people I decided I would explore the theme of birth and pregnancy. Maybe there is more I want to say. Maybe.
I don't have a lot of free time lately. Summer vacation means a lot of time with my kids and not much time for my art. But, I did manage to squeeze in a few hours last night. I decided instead of taking my time to paint a detailed image, I would dive right in to my paints the way I used to before I learned to know enough to care about what people think of my style (I am working on unlearning knowing enough to care). I grabbed whatever I had lying around for paint. I had some orange, black, red, white and blue. Nothing more. Nothing less.
I didn't have a plan in mind when I started. I just decided to let the brush do the talking. I had no initial sketches. Nothing. I just wanted to see what my inner artist had to say. Sometimes you have to step aside and let the process unfold in this way in order to get your footing on a particular subject. Then again, maybe I decided to do it this way because I knew I was in a bit of a time crunch. Life is hectic right now and alas, the first thing to suffer is my ability to take it slow and focus when I paint. Oh well. I did what I wanted to do the best way I knew how. I threw some PJ Harvey on the old Ipod, cranked up the volume and went right to it.
I managed to create two paintings last night. They are both imbued with the bright colors I scrounged, but they are vastly different in tone and feeling. One in particular, which I have titled Crowning is of a woman at the height of the birthing process and what a challenge it was for me to complete this painting. Whenever my nine year old son came into the room I felt compelled to hide it. I flipped it around when he entered the room and flipped it back when he left the room. I wasn't sure what to say or do. I've tried to be as open and honest as I can be about the human body with him. I've always talked openly with him about babies and where they come from... But here I was, in my kitchen, painting the act itself. The act of giving birth.
My painting is of a woman with her legs open and the crown of her baby's head coming forth from her vagina. Why, I asked myself, did I feel so compelled to hide something so completely natural and real from my son? It was a bit of an eye opener for me. Where do I stand when it comes to the truth about birth, really? Women have home births with their children all around them. Is it really such a strange thing for a young boy to see an image of a baby coming from the place where all babies come from? I did not expect this challenge to come to my mind when I started painting last night, but there it was just the same.
There is violence on television every day. Smutty photos smear the pages of magazines where customers stand in line at the grocery store and I can't constantly shield him from all of the...dare I say it? Crap! So, I had to ask myself why I felt like he should not see my painting. I am still trying to work out my answer.
Maybe I want to shield him from the realities of life for a while longer. Maybe I want him to see birth as a beautiful process and I am afraid he won't see it in my painting. Maybe I've gotten the beauty part all wrong. Maybe I want him to understand how strong women are. Maybe I want him to understand the radical notion that there is more to womanhood than what is portrayed in the media every day. Maybe I am afraid I have grossed him out. Maybe this. Maybe that.
On a larger scale, I am a little afraid to show this to anyone let alone my son, but here I am anyway. Now I have to ask myself what these fears are all about. Maybe I am just a big chicken or maybe the painting is no good. Maybe I am afraid it is offensive to some even if it is not to me. I've never been very good at gauging that kind of thing. I'll be a solid month trying to figure exactly how I feel about this. I will have to get back to you with my conclusion and maybe my son's conclusion as well.
Here is the link to the photo of the painting in question at any rate: