The painting, done in the style of Renaissance Madonnas, is a depiction of my friend as she struggles with postnatal depression and chronic pain. As her headaches worsen, mothering her newborn, she loses herself, more and more, and as she loses herself, those who love her lose her as well.
An internet friend, I fear I will lose her into the ether. Pixels, just floating away when she can no longer hold herself together.
The scene behind her in the arch is the shore in Liverpool, England. She posted a photo of this view before her first attempt. The coming sundown also symbolizes the end of a life and the arch scene itself references the tradition of pastorals and landscapes framed by archways in Madonna portraits.
Roses are a common image in Madonna paintings. The red bloom represents the blood of the martyr. In this case, the mother is the martyr instead of the babe.
Her hand placement has several meanings. Traditionally, the placement of the hand, with the first two fingers up and the ring finger touching the thumb, with the pinkie bent invokes the name of "the savior", in this case with the juxtaposition of the bleeding cuts on her wrist, it is meant as a swear towards the doctors who have failed her, "Jesus Christ, help her! Can't you see what's happening here!?"
It also is a reference to rabbits that are common in Madonna paintings of the Renaissance. Symbolizing fertility, they were often hidden in paintings.
The gesture also reads colloquially as "peace out" - representing a desire to leave.
Her strange eyes have several layers of meaning as well. It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul. Painted in a time of great turmoil, I chose not to show her eyes as to protect her soul from the viewer. The lack of pupil or proper eyeball is designed to make her look alien, as one feels when suffering from chronic debilitating pain and mental illness. The bulging pink sac that replaces her eyeballs is meant to mimic the crowning of a baby or the birthing of the placenta - the eyelashes, thin and wiry, reference torn episiotomy stitches.
Lastly, the slug the child holds is a reference to medieval paintings that featured slugs/snails. Knights were shown in battle with them in the margins of many book in what scholars believe references their tough armored shell, but also their general silliness as an opponent. Here it alludes to battles fought and won. It appears in the scene as it is to reference an image of a black slug she found and shared on the walk before her first attempt was made.
This painting was begun after she made a third threat while seeking help after her second attempt. In a way, it is a living memorial - a hope she will keep fighting, but a monument to what she has endured already and what many people fighting postpartum/postnatal depression and chronic pain face everyday.