The Vision of the Artist/Mother
The Strange Creativity of Painting and Pregnancy
The dominant culture projects pregnancy as a time of quiet waiting. We refer
to the woman as “expecting,” as though this new life were flying in from
another planet.… The pregnant woman experiences herself as a source and
participant in a creative process. Though she does not plan and direct it,
neither does it merely wash over her; rather, she is this process, this change.
—Iris Marion Young
The painter’s vision is a continued birth.
I am expecting, and thus one might say that I am waiting. In Dutch (my mother tongue) one would say that I am “in a waiting condition,” in verwachting, which even more clearly expresses the waiting (wachten) aspect of being pregnant. Merleau-Ponty draws attention to the waiting pregnant body when he writes: “[in] this difficult situation, a situation over which [the pregnant woman] has no control, she must passively await its development.”1 The emphasis on waiting interests me. It assumes that pregnancy is a period of passing time while one’s body prepares itself for that moment of intense uncontrollable activity that brings a new life in the world. This new life will introduce to one’s own life a new order and plenty of lively chaos, but before this outburst of activity there is a pause in which the pregnant woman remains, keeps still, takes extra care, withdraws from too much activity and waits. At least that is what seems generally expected of her. The woman who is “in a waiting condition” is marked by a curious passivity of letting her body do ever more work while she relinquishes control. This notion of the waiting woman without control is strengthened by the ever more present and expansive materiality of her body that will impede her movement and cloud her mind. Traditionally, woman is more