We all deal with loss in different ways, our different backgrounds, the relationships we have, the faiths we hold; we can not escape our own mortality. My own background of paediatric nursing in special needs and hospice care means over many years I have experienced heartache with each death of a child; I needed to acknowledge those lives. I created a personal memorial to 42 babies and children lost by their mothers, and whose lives touched mine over a number of years, wrapped, swaddled, cocooned each one nestles in my hand, identified only by their initials they remain anonymous but present. The small figures are kept in a wooden chest out of sight, the book becomes the only way to hold them, touch them, and feel their presence.

PR. One of 42
Juliet Guiness ©, Memorial, Photograph of Hand held figures
Juliet Guiness ©, Book of 42 photographs of hand held figures, Book Cover, blanket embossed lead.
Juliet Guiness ©, Memorial, Book of 42 photographs of hand held figures
Juliet Guiness ©,Memorial, Lead covered Book and wooden chest.
Juliet Guiness ©, Memorial, Lead covered Book and wooden chest.

About Juliet Guiness

I completed a Fine Art Masters Degree at The University of Hertfordshire in 2012 following a BA Honours Degree in 2010. I have a paediatric and special needs nursing background, my knowledge of biology, working in a children’s plastic surgery unit, and working in a children’s hospice have all…Read more

Website: http://www.julietguiness.wordpress.com

More posts by Juliet Guiness

3 Responses to “A personal memorial”

  1. Teresa Wilson

    The little hand held figures are very touching and quieting.
    The photos reminded me of the tiny babies lying quietly in the their incubators in the special care baby unit at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester. My eldest daughter was born 10 weeks early, 21 years ago nearly. I remember the time so well because I stayed in with her for a month in the ward upstairs and spent each day in the baby unit.

    The little ones had such an aura of self possession and peacefulness.

    I made friends with one of the other mothers. Sadly her baby, a little boy died. But the love and kindness of all the staff made the experience bearable. Knowing that everything possible had been done.

  2. Juliet Guiness

    Hospital experiences vary tremendously I am glad yours was a happy outcome, prem babies and their families are nearly always on a roller coaster of good and bad times with staff having to deal with it all, love and kindness as you say help make these experiences bearable. Death has become far less visible in every day life (unlike death portrayed by the media) and consequently it seems it is harder to talk about, but what most bereaved people initially want is someone to just be there and listen, and then for friends and family not to avoid mentioning the name of the dead (as if they never existed) that is just cruel.
    I am glad you found my little figures touching and quieting, as they lie peacefully together.

  3. Helen Sargeant

    I would love to see this work in the flesh. The filing cabinet makes me think of a womb, the draw opening, the belly expanding with the duration of pregnancy. It also makes me think of cerebral space, the containment of memories of other peoples loss. Is it a self portrait, are you the filing cabinet ?

    There is a beauty in the wrapping and mummification of the handheld figures. This reminds me of Teresa and Tabitha’s work with puppets and dolls. Your figures also made me think of the work of Ana Casa Broda, her Kinderwunsch series of photographs where you see her children playing at wrapping her up in toilet roll.See: http://www.anacasasbroda.com/#!40-kinderwunsch/c1ksq and http://www.anacasasbroda.com/#!48-kinderwunsch/c54l

    Throughout this project, I have been undertaking some background research into artists who have explored miscarriage within their practice. Miscarriage still remains a relatively hidden and unexplored within contemporary arts practice, I guess reflecting societies unease with acknowledging and exploring this aspect of motherhood.

    I just had a look online at some NHS information and advice about miscarriage and it states that one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage. So miscarriage is very common place. I guess that talking about death in our society is not often vocalised. Some subjects are perhaps just too difficult to vocalise, to write about and I guess that is where art and visual language can step in.

    Lena Simic’s, Tabitha Moses and Ruthy Rabbits work here on this site then are very important and rare insights. Other than these artists named on this site and Rebecca Baillies work “My son” (http://www.mamsie.bbk.ac.uk/Baillie_SiM_5_1_2013.html), the only other contemporary art works that I have located that directly explore the subject of miscarriage are Teresa Margolles’ Burial (https://www.frieze.com/issue/review/20_million_mexicans_cant_be_wrong/) and Humaira Adid Breakdown in the cupboard (http://mama.imow.org/yourvoices/breakdown-closet).

    I wondered if you knew of any other examples of contemporary artist’s work exploring miscarriage or still birth ?


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