I am a London-based architectural glass artist and painter, whose work is often inspired by scientific concepts and imagery. Having previously created a sculpture for the Tomorrow’s Child exhibition in Parliament in 2016, I was keen to explore further the research I undertook on infant brain development to create a new piece for this exhibition.
The intention of this work is to vividly evoke the strong connection between good perinatal mental health and the optimum development of a child’s brain in the first 1001 days of life.
Millions of synaptic connections are forged between brain cells from conception to two years old, creating the architecture of the brain. Repeated emotional experiences – positive and negative – can help or hinder this vital early ‘wiring’ process. The ability of a primary carer – usually the mother – to respond consistently and positively to the needs of a baby is vital for its emotional and intellectual development. Looking after a new mother’s mental health is therefore critical, not just for her wellbeing, but for that of her child.
Drawing on an artistic interpretation of MRI scans, this piece juxtaposes images of a infant’s growing brain with words that conjure up various thoughts, feelings and experiences associated with early motherhood. The words have been contributed and handwritten by a number of different mothers (including myself), adding to the emotional resonance of the piece.
The title “baby brain” thus literally describes the developing brain of an infant from birth to two years old, whilst also referencing the (somewhat pejorative) phrase often used to sum up a new mother’s emotional state. Blue is the predominant colour, obliquely evoking the so called “baby blues” that many women experience to some degree.
Thanks to Feng Shi of the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine, who granted access to infant brain MRI scans that were invaluable for my research. Thanks also to all the mothers who contributed the handwritten words contained within this piece.