Mother of Gynecology

By Lauren Handy

1st Place, Visual (2D), Create | Encounter 2020

Artist Statement:

I deconstructed the infamous The Father of Gynecology, a painting created by Robert Thom about J. Marion Sims. Sims was a 19th-century gynecologist who performed experimental surgeries on enslaved black women without using anesthesia. While he conducted the surgeries on many women, history only remembers three: Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey. In the painting Betsey is being evaluated by Sims with a cold/ calculated gaze. He viewed her as property in the painting’s depiction and in real life. But she is more than property or a blip in history. Betsey is the Mother of Gynecology. I printed out the original painting and crumpled back the darkness to reveal the one who sacrificed, labored and suffered for this medical advancement. Betsy gazes back with a contemplative defiance and the halo around her harkens back to the land she was taken from. This is about challenging white supremacy, reclaiming history and confronting medical injustices within BIPOC communities.

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