Marian McLaughlin, Staff Writer

When Jessica Clements was pregnant with her first child, Sam, she was terrified at the idea of birth.
She tried to find photographs, videos, anything from our cultural media depicting birth, but became frustrated at how censored and unrealistic this topic was.

So Clements decided to cope with pregnancy and birth by creating a series of realistic and raw paintings, sparing no details.

Now comfortable with birth, Clements has three children: her son Sam, her daughter Sierra and her show, “The Origin of the World,” a series of 10 paintings that show different women in the process of birthing their children.

One of the most explicit paintings is “Charity and Izaiah,” which portrays a breeched birth on a square canvas. It is abstract in a sense that it is difficult to tell the point of view of the subject.

The process of birth is often depicted with the soon-to-be mother lying down on her back, but here, Charity seems to be sitting, possibly trying to gain leverage through labor by arching her back and placing her arms behind her.

Only a portion of her body is visible, from her torso to her mid-thighs, which makes the image even more raw.

There is no facial expression tied to such a graphic scene, only two human bodies shown in a state of stress and struggle.

Charity’s body seems almost pornographic, her legs spread wide, which from a distance or a first glance might seem pornographic.

However, even as she pushes her newborn out, Charity’s stance is anything but inviting. Sex is not the basic human instinct represented here; instead this scene is all about survival.

Other paintings, such as “Heather and Mike,” focus on the relationship between the soon-to-be parents during stages of their child’s birth.

Although the primary focus is on the women in each situation, their male counterpart is ever-present behind them, providing physical and emotional support.

In “Heather and Mike,” Mike is standing right behind Heather, as if leading her further through her labor while holding her up with his embrace.

The mood of “Jill, Renee, and Sevilen” sets it apart from the other pieces.

The husband and wife lay together in a bathtub, and the reflections from light scatter and penetrate the water’s surface.

The wife lays back into her husband, overcome by either a state of relaxation or surrender. Her husband observes, and envelops her in his arms, but instead of holding onto her shoulders, as Mike did to Heather, he is more sensual, grasping his wife’s breasts.

Some students like Sarah, who wrote in the comment book, complimented Clements on her “courage to display so openly” while others found the content too graphic or gross.

The exhibit, located in the Johnson Center’s 123 Gallery, is right by the food court. As people stand in line for Taco Bell, Clements’ paintings of womens’ bleeding and expanding vaginas are in full sight.

Another note in the comment book, remaining anonymous, said “I EAT HERE, YOU IDIOTS.” Some boys chuckled as they walked past, making a quick entry into the gallery only to run out, seeming repulsed.

Art and Visual Technology major Mike Forster has seen many shows come through the 123 Gallery, but he has never seen anything so realistic, especially pertaining to a subject such as birth.

“Usually, images are done through metaphor, but they never show the actual act.” said Forster.

“In Clements’ exhibit, you can just tell what is happening through each figure’s expression. There is no interpretation involved at all. It is graphic, but it depicts something important and true.”