I have been thinking a lot about the cycle of life recently. In the last few weeks, an uncle of mine has passed away and so has an aunt of my husband Dave’s. During the past year, two new babies have been welcomed to the world in my extended family.
In 2015 I took photos of an exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery that depicted the cycle of life in an incredibly graphic way.
It had two main pieces and was created by an Australian-born, London-based artist named Ron Mueck.
The first piece was an enormous sculpture called The Girl.
The little girl had just been born and her umbilical cord was still attached. Blood remained on her wrinkled and folded skin.
You could see the glisten of saliva on the baby’s lips, the wet mucus in her nose, and her tiny eyelashes.
You needed to walk slowly all around the figure and think about it. Mueck said that while he spends lots of time making the outer surface of his sculptures of human beings it is really the life inside them he is trying to capture. It reminded me how after our older son was born my husband walked around the delivery room carrying him and talking to him. “I wonder what he is thinking,” he said to me. Mueck’s sculpture has that quizzical thinking look about it.
Mueck has created other life-size sculptures of babies. He made the first after the birth of his child. Mueck reflects on the strangeness and assertiveness of infants and the way a new baby tends to totally dominate our lives.
Mueck’s Old Woman in Bed was on display just a few steps away from The Girl. This art piece shows a dying, vulnerable woman in her hospital bed. She was as tiny as Mueck’s baby was big.
Artist Ron Mueck made the Old Woman in Bed after visiting his wife’s beloved grandmother in the hospital.
The woman is curled in a fetal position, and her wrinkled skin, so like the wrinkled skin of the baby, links her clearly with the newborn girl nearby.
The exhibit juxtapositioned the beginning and end of a woman’s life beautifully and in such a moving and compassionate way.