In 2010, I founded Visualizing Birth, a website devoted to showcasing art, imagery and visualization practices used in birth and pregnancy. The website, accessed internationally within the birth community for over a decade, contains over 180 posts devoted to the topic. I have also spoken with midwifery and doula groups in San Francisco, the Bay Area and elsewhere about the use of art, imagery and visualization in birth as a rite of passage.
The Visualizing Birth project has brought me closer to Bay Area artists and to others interested in birth, pregnancy, mothering, parenting and families. However, the project has also generated a number of intellectual interests and subsequent work related to birth. I have presented material on some of these interests in academic conferences and symposia. Intellectual areas of interest related to the Visualizing Birth project continue to grow and include: the philosophy of birth, including the philosophy of mind, visualization and physiological transformation; religious and sacred dimensions of birth and birth art; social justice and birth, as well as art about birth and social justice; the treatment of birth within the humanities; women’s studies and birth as a rite of passage; birth rituals across different cultures and historical periods; and secular rituals of birth.
Before becoming interested in visualization and birth, I studied visualization in the contexts of Chinese Daoism, Chinese Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism. My PhD dissertation (Chinese Images of Body and Landscape: Visualization and Representation in the Religious Experience of Medieval China) includes an in depth look at visualization and art in the context of medieval Chinese culture. I am currently working on a book project related to histories of visualization, including the use of visualization and birth.
Anna Hennessey, PhD