ABOUT THE ARTWORK
"I found myself in a school bus, somebody was giving birth and wanted me to be there. She has the baby in two hours, looking wildly beautiful. Later, when I talked to doctors and nurses, I found out how rare that was that your first glimpse of birth was this wild beauty." — Ina May Gaskin
In 1971, three hundred hippies set off from California in a convoy of 90 trucks and schoolbuses to find a new life. The pregnant women amongst them, out a desire to treat birth as a normal part of proceedings, passed around birth manuals and learnt to deliver each others' babies on the road.
It was the memory of the very first woman, calmly and tenderly birthing in the arms of her husband in the back of a bus on a pitstop, that was to change the lives of two watching women in particular: Ina May Gaskin and Pamela Hunt. Called in spontaneously to assist, and watching in wonder at the first natural birth they'd ever seen, that Ina May would describe decades later as an 'astonishing, wild beauty' that 'gave her something that has never left'.
Ten more babies were born along the way, till the Caravan arrived settled on 1700 acres of land in Summertown, Tennessee, where Ina May and her husband Stephen Gaskin founded The Farm, at the heart which was a fearless belief in the physiological normalcy of childbirth. Ina May began to recruit an army of likeminded midwives and spearhead a new subculture, publishing their stories in 1975 in Spiritual Midwifery. Now in its fourth edition, consumers to this day use the book to seek alternatives out of the hospital model.
In a tribute both to the legacy bequeathed by the first birthing woman on the Caravan, and to Ina May's advocacy of the imagery of crowning to demystify birth, this unprecedented visual re-telling of the 'wild beauty' on the schoolbus in 1971 suggests to an audience in 2020 how we might again seek out a culture of our own.