This multiple-component practice-based output explores miscarriage as a silent, liminal event (Seftel, 2006). Endorsed by the British Infertility Counselling Association (BICA), this research has developed through O’Donnell’s poetic practice-based synthesis of the graphic languages of drawing and writing.
This research takes up Hélène Cixous’ call to ‘write the body’ (1976) and the performative, feminist potential of drawing (1993). It also queries Cixous’ commitment to the ‘mother’, however, ‘who makes everything all right, who nourishes, and who stands up against separation; a force that will not be cut off but will knock the wind out of the codes’ of patriarchal order (1976, p.882). O’Donnell’s maternal experience sits outside this gynocentric affirmation of women’s subjectivity. It articulates the corrosive power of the uncertainty, loss and trauma of reproductive failure to reveal the liminality of the event of miscarriage (Reiheld, 2015). Building on the artistic precedent of Judy Chicago’s Birth Project (1980-85, See Appendix B) to address the lack of miscarriage imagery in Western art it participates within a growing body of practice-led research that uses drawing to explore the subjectivity of women (Cixous, 1993; Meskimmon and Sawdon, 2016).
This research first developed through a performance at the Drawing Matters Symposium (YSJU, 2017) and a conference paper entitled ‘Maternal lines: drawing in/on conversations’ (Coventry: 2017). Since that time, it has developed into a body of drawing and writing disseminated through an artist’s publication (2019, funded by YSJU QR), an exhibition at Newcastle University Gallery in NSW, Australia, and a 5,000 peer-review article for the journal TRACEY: Drawing and Visualisation Research (2021, Loughborough (delayed by COVID)), the publication of the international Drawing Research Network (DRN). Moreover, the artist’s publication has been taken up by the British Infertility Counselling Association as tool to support clinical practice in the NHS in the UK.