A silenced discussion of pain women undergo in birth and mankind’s absence of mindfulness have driven Rebecca Louise Law
Lampoon talks to Rebecca Louise Law
In 2017, Rebecca Louise Law gave birth to Alexander, her firstborn. This journey awakened Law’s stupor from the bliss of her art installations. Upon such a realization, she conceived The Womb in 2019, her homage to her experience, and the culmination of her curiosity and research over the home of mankind.
«I experienced shock as I had been living in this bubble of making celebratory installations that commemorate nature and giving birth to my son shocked me into being a human being again. During my pregnancy, I worked the whole way through, installation after installation, even up until the day I delivered my son. I have worked so much that I shut out on what I was about to do. And then the birth: the agony of it and the pain I went through. I could not believe that we, as women, survive it, and that every human being is born in such a way. It felt as if I had been the most naïve human being on Earth; I had been curating art installations on nature and our relationship with it, yet I still felt that I had missed the real matter of it».
The Womb installation
In Law’s The Womb, the installation explores the relationship between humankind and nature and offers the viewers an experience of being enveloped in solitariness, sublimeness, and nature, the examination of the womb as a natural cocoon. In the accompanying text of the exhibition, installed in Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids Township, Michigan, Law shares «the science behind the womb, Gravid Uterus, Latin for pregnant uterus, is incredible and the more I research the more I feel like this is a place I could look at for the rest of my life. The cells, the organ within an organ, the growth, the flexibility, the sounds, the tones and the nurturing vessels. I wonder if the need to be held by nature starts here».
Inside the hall of the sculpture, warm lighting simplifies the ambiance of the room; the black ceiling creates a void to spotlight the vessel of nature below it. At the heart of the space, a bundle of flora species morphs into the shape of a hot-air balloon’s envelope, surrounded by tendrils of other flora species that cascade from the ceiling; they dangle and sway, grazing the floor as they create the reflection of a waterfall. Here, he audience immerses themselves into Law’s depiction of nature among humanity.
In the next room, a similar method of stitching the flora species together to craft an installation sets forth through an arch in the shape of the alphabet V; stems, flowers, and petals intermingle to prophesize the entrance of human beings into the nature’s womb, a ceremony to celebrate through conservation of nature.
Law also painted a series of reproduction portrayals, narrating the creation of a child inside the womb. From the article of Cleveland Clinic, the egg that will soon transform as the child divides into cells twenty-four hours after the fertilization; eight weeks from the onset of pregnancy, the embryo turns into a fetus which continues up to forty weeks divided into three trimesters.
In Law’s anthology, the sketches saunter into a kaleidoscope of colors before transitioning into monochromaticity to underline the growth of the fetus before birth. If paintings may not pique one’s attention towards the science of conception, Law displays the identical narration through sculptures in transparent glasses, shaped in forms of embryo and fetus while placed on a rectangular white table.
«There is pain that goes alongside it that we do not talk about; no discussion about the pain related to birth, including the issues concerning death rates. I had not even thought or considered about the beginning of us as human beings, and it triggered this concept in my head where I had to start from the beginning. Our first cocoon in nature is the womb, and I wanted to celebrate us as human beings through this vessel. One of the reasons we do not talk about the womb, or that it is not a common practice to talk about, is religion where it may be considered as a sacred place or topic one may not discuss unless they were a midwife or a doctor. Such thinking may have gone down generation after generation, somewhat a barrier which was meant to protect women, but in a way had silenced them as well. It may still be an issue that women might not discuss: the pain of birth, the trauma they have gone through, or the loss of not being able to have children. These opened up to study the vessel of the womb where the installation allows the conversation to happen; they can talk about the past experiences or past incidents they have gone through that were traumatic and related to the womb. Two people with no agenda other than to wonder what the womb is».
Florilegium installation in Parma
From then on, the journey towards healing after a spell of realization and discovery has brought Law to craft an installation in Parma, Italy that speaks of the city’s oneness in its history of medicine, health care, and community support. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Franciscan friar Francesco da Meda founded the Congregation of Charity to help the less-fortunate of Parma.
In 1652, the Congregation established Antica Farmacia San Filippo Neri to produce free-of-charge medicines for the sick people of Parma. This continued until the birth of the National Health Service in the second half of the twentieth century, hauling the charity to centralize its activity on the assistance of the elderly. Antica Farmacia San Filippo Neri sits in Palazzo San Tiburzio, its mission inspired Law to dedicate Florilegium, drawn from an anthology or a volume of literary extracts and writings, to the city, an installation weaved from the advocacy of the pharmacy.
Part of the text she wrote herself for the installation states «the combination of healing natural materials and the hands that carried them around the city inspired me to create a site-specific installation that uses the same concepts. An installation made from thousands of flowers entwined in copper wire will envelope the viewer, transporting them into a natural healing space for the mind and body. This artwork was installed in February 2020, just as a deadly virus hit the world, and the exhibition was never opened. Thousands of lives have been lost and cities plunged into isolation. Churches used to hold the dead, and we are reminded of times in the past, such as the ‘Spanish Flu’ and the ‘Plague’. This artwork was created within a building that represented help for the sick, and it was designed specifically for mindfulness. While installing the piece, it felt like the sculpture and the building became one. A peacefulness filled Chiesa di San Tiburzio, and a connection between nature in the past and the present resonated».
Florilegium commemorates the ebb and flow of the pandemic, an installation to view at a home of divinity to pay homage to the lives the pandemic has taken. During its conception, Law had foraged for venues, but felt drawn to the Chapel and pharmacy sharing a single space and more so once she heard about their history and volunteerism of helping the less fortunate in the city.
Adding the installation to the building means echoing the celebration of the establishments’ philanthropy towards mankind. Inside the Chiesa di San Tiburzio, the concave ceiling chisels lines and shapes that frame the frescoes sourced from images of Catholicism. The windows above allow the light to spill inside the chapel, lighting up the space and toning down the temperature oozing from the marble architecture.
With Law’s installation, around four hundred thousand flora hangs from the ceiling, sewn into copper wires around a grid made of metal to mirror the look of frozen raindrops or puffed clouds. Law grows her flowers and, twice a year, buys them from a small flower farm in Normandy, France. Among the flora she used for this work include Achillea ptarmica – (Sneezewort), Carthamus tinctorius – (Safflower), Eryngium planum – (Sea Holly), Helipterum sanfordii – (Golden Clusters), Rhodanthe manglesii – (Strawflower) and Schinus molle – (Peruvian Pink Peppercorn).
Rebecca Louise Law flower installations
Law’s foundation to art lies in the trinity of her mother, aunt, and grandmother. The young Law would wake up in the morning to find her grandmother pressing flowers to make pictures, framed and hung on the walls of the family’s
Law’s foundation in art lies in the trinity of her mother, aunt, and grandmother. The young Law would wake up in the morning to find her grandmother pressing flowers to make pictures, framed and hung on the walls of the family’s households. She would saunter in her home to find her mother painting images of flowers and let in Law into her knowledge of nature as she pointed out, for instance, the history of grasses before painting them on a canvas.
She would visit her aunt, an artist and an art teacher, in her home only to be encouraged to tinker with art as a means of communication through the paint and sheets of paper she had prepared for her nieces and nephews. Law’s earliest memory in art led her to study fine arts until she found her niche of playing with the relationship between human beings and nature and invoking her passion for natural change and preservation in her installations.
«Everything that I had seen throughout my studies in fine arts identified the horrors of humanity in nature. I could not do and replicate those. My art practice does not only voice the beauty of the world through nature, but also encourages the audience to open their eyes and value the environment. We are interconnected with nature; it is vital to understand that it is not separate as we have been brought up to believe. We have spent years attempting to tame nature, and our systems have been built out of the fear of the unknown and the strength of nature. After talking to scientists over the last couple of years, it was heartbreaking to have heard that we could no longer bring back what we had lost.
Today, we are concentrating on how we can save the planet and adapt to climate change, but the rate of our consumption has placed a barrier between us and nature. It may come down to establishing policies and making individual changes».
Through her art installations, through the way she recycles every flower she incorporates in a sculpture by using the same in her subsequent installations, Rebecca Louise Law changes the perception of her audience towards nature and what they may lose in life if conservation and actions fail to exist.
Rebecca Louise Law artist
British artist, born in 1980, known for creating immersive installations with natural materials. Preserved flowers have become the signature of her works. Individually sewn and suspended, viewers are often invited to navigate through them, discovering the diverse forms, colors and textures of each specimen.