Gaps in Access


            This art piece is a response to the preliminary findings collected for the research project, “Gaps in Prenatal Education: Mothers' Perspectives." The larger project explores the perspectives of diverse women in Northwestern Ontario on barriers and facilitators to desired pre and perinatal care and education and this presentation reports on findings from interviews with mothers in Thunder Bay, Kenora, Sioux Lookout and districts. This piece speaks to the gaps in access, especially when looking at mothers from more rural locations. Pre-natal education, care and extra supports are far harder to come by for a multitude of reason.

            I use metal, fiber, wood, paint and found objects to construct this work.  It represents the urban and the rural with a rusty bridge in between. Red fiber connects the two physical planes and shows the need for a better system to defy barriers. Some of these barriers are represented by dangling cages encasing needs for access.  A large black and white cloak births the bridge and symbolizes the dark and the light of the birthing process. Tall platforms and the balancing of metal on one person embody the delicacy and restrictions present in walking the path of the women in this study.

             The goal of the research project is to help provide equitable access to prenatal knowledge, education and services women in Northwestern Ontario need and want to optimize their birthing experience and outcomes. Equity in access is extremely important.  



Birth Stories #1


             In the first phase of the Birthing Xchange research project, mothers from Northern Ontario with diverse backgrounds were interviewed to discuss their birth stories. Birth is something that is not widely discussed, analyzed or made for public consumption, aside for the very narrow lens in popular media. This lens perpetuates birth stereotypes and reinforces the notion that birth needs to be highly medicalized, private and unseen. Birth Stories #1is an examination of these ideas through the interviews. 

            The wearble art work consists of paper, fabric, glass vials, cloches, lights and antiques copper piping. The cloches are used to transform the body from person to specimen as pregnant and birthing women become. The lights around the head and in the ‘belly’ is used to show the connection between mother and child. The copper piping is a representation of the sound birth makes, loud and beautiful. Inside each pipe is a paper, symbolic of each of the stories the women shared. The glass vials are dangling delicately filled with ‘blood.’ This speaks to the over medicalization of birth and the blood exposed what society wants to keep hidden. 

            I make this art piece to challenge systemic norms and to draw attention to the limited options women are given when they prepare to birth. This is an attempt to make the private public and create dialogue around what needs to change.

© 2019 by Barbara Benwell. All work presented on this website cannot be reproduced without the artist's permission.