Clare Nicholson and Remaking obstetric models to represent epigenetic entanglements Across time the maternal body has been medically constituted as problematically risky, passing on maternal effects to cause offspring adversity. Such beliefs positioned and framed mothers and their bodies within society in particular ways. The nascent field of epigenetic inquiry understands bodies and environments as interdependent and permeable, rather than discrete entities, with acquired characteristics transferable across several generations. Yet despite this radical understanding of body-environment relations, mothers are still construed as responsible for inducing heritable foetal changes leading to childhood and adult-onset disease. My practice remakes historical obstetric and gestational developmental models using contemporary materials, drawing upon diverse histories of medical model making and illustration. Employing traditional artmaking skills, but using materials loaded with cultural meaning, my anatomical models extend historical representations to conceptualise influential exterior environmental imprinting in order to dismantle obsolete ideas aligned to the standardised or fixed body. By bringing together tropes from the history of medical modelling and illustration, contemporary materials, readings of epigenetics and new materialist feminist framings, my practice refigures maternal body-environment relations in order to entangle interior and exterior worlds. Through this my practice indicates that a more expansive understanding of the differing ways environments impinge upon bodies within obstetric and developmental representations is necessary. By incorporating environmental influences with corporeality, I shift the focus away from the individual mother’s reactions and responsibilities to critically represent how socially, culturally and aesthetically maternal-foetal bodies get 'mattered’. Unlike traditional medical models, my obstetric and gestational development models suggest maternal subjectivity and situated life experiences of the mother.
Clare Nicholson lives on Gadigal Wangal land in Sydney’s Inner West. She is a sculptor and educator, with a PhD in epigenetic maternal-foetal programming from UNSW Art & Design. Clare has held several solo shows within Australia and exhibited overseas. Along with presenting at international conferences, Clare has co-authored ‘Sustaining Seas. Oceanic Space and the Politics of Care’, published by Rowman & Littlefield. Clare taught in the sculpture department of UNSW Art & Design and currently teaches from her Haberfield studio.