Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities


Raina Cowan
Chicago, Illinois, USA

Artist’s statement
While undergoing treatment for infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss, I became fascinated by the inner workings of the body. I made delicate watercolors: meditations on the elusive process of conception. Other pieces emerged: a cardboard marionette whose flayed heart is on the verge of bursting into flames; assemblage boxes containing good luck charms, medical items, and ultrasound photos rendered obsolete by miscarriages. The futility of hope eventually hijacked my sense of humor. In an attempt to resurrect it, I created “Infertility Wear” in jest to maternity clothes. I painted a T-shirt to read: “I injected myself with hormones and all I got was a lousy mood.” Humor’s darker cousins, irony, sarcasm, and wit resurfaced in my art and demeanor.

Infertilitys shadow
Visualizing conception
Watercolor and watercolor pencil
9.5” x 7”
visualizing concepts
Infertility’s shadow
Watercolor and watercolor pencil
17” x 15”
Infertility wear
Infertility wear
Acrylic paint on a T-shirt

The triptych, Madonna, No Child, portrays the immaculate and sacred hearts of a weeping, empty-handed Madonna. Her image is so iconic of motherhood that even as a Jew, I felt compelled to use it. Devotion to mankind and maternal love seem ironic in the face of infertility. Pagan symbols and praying hands infer questions about hope and faith, religion, and reproduction. Art may not answer these questions, but the process of making these pieces allowed me to express feelings of devastation and disability. By making visible the invisibility of these losses, I was able to explore and communicate my thoughts and feelings about conception, procreation, and the compelling desire to parent a child.

Madonna, No Child
Acrylic paint, gold leaf, and other mixed media on wood panel
front view (left), open view (center), back view (right)
13” x 14” (open)

RAINA COWAN is an artist, a registered art therapist with a master’s degree in art therapy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a licensed clinical professional counselor. She has exhibited in various group shows in the Chicago area at Woman Made gallery, ARC, and at the Open Studio Project in Evanston, Illinois. She currently works as an art therapist and counselor in an outpatient mental health setting on the Southwest Side of Chicago. She is in the process of creating her own website featuring her artwork and handmade jewelry under the name “damselfly girl.” She and her husband just adopted a healthy baby girl on October 12, 2012.

Highlighted in Frontispiece Volume 4, Issue 4 – Fall 2012

Fall 2012



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