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The World In Her Hands

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The World In Her Hands - Watercolour and acrylic on watercolour board painting by Michelle Chermaine

Watercolour and acrylic on watercolour board 5" x 7"

The mother cradles her child in her arms, her hair shielding it from the blinding rays of light of the outside world he’s not yet ready to face. Her hair and veil form oval shapes cocooning the baby within the protective egg-like enclosure. As the child clutches her fingers for assurance of love and security, she holds it close to her heart and her shoulders and neck roughly form the shape of a heart inside the oval egg formation. The blue and green at the bottom are reminiscent of the sea and how like sea is the world’s cradle of life on an evolutionary macrocosmic level, so does the woman’s womb mirror its role as the cradle of life on a microcosmic level. Streaming rays symbolize a blessing from heaven, a gift of love in the form of a child and a message entrusting her with the responsibility of the child’s proper upbringing to make the world a better place than it was before her child was born into it.

I can’t begin to imagine the enormous responsibility mothers have to their children and to the world. I used to work at a hospital where I’d hear horrific stories of the pain of childbirth everyday. One day, as I spoke to one mother who had just given birth to her second son, I told her I admired her courage in going through labour for the second time after the experience must have been extremely painful the first. She just smiled at me and said, “Actually, that’s the easy part. Raising your child for the next twenty years is the hardest part, because the responsibility of whether or not he turns out to be a good person in this world depends on how he’s brought up and taught to be good in a world full of evil. You can divorce your husband anytime. But your child is your child. The type of person he grows up to be will be a reflection of how well I’ve done my job as a mother teaching him what’s right and wrong.”

Her words stuck with me ever since and became the inspiration behind the first drawing I created which this painting is based on. Every person who ever made a huge impact in history was once a child whose personality was molded by their environment - and most importantly, by the people who raised them. Caligula, one of the most corrupt emperors in ancient Roman history was the son of Germanicus, a Roman war hero. He grew up on an army base where he was fawned over by his mother as well as his father’s soldiers where he grew up feeling he could do no wrong. Instead of the adults disciplining the child, the toddler Caligula was used to being saluted by grown up soldiers feeding his over-inflated beliefs of entitlement from a tender age. This in addition to being under the corrupt Tiberius’s tutelage consequently paved the road to Caligula’s obsession with power and self gratification involving unspeakable cruelty and sexual perversion during his rule.

When I created the initial version in pastels, I decided that this piece had to be a line drawing with no solid flesh tones or distinct facial features. If I had chosen the route of realistic portraiture, the two figures would have had to have solid features indicating a specific mother and child from a specific race. The significance of this piece’s concept is meant to be universal and depicting a specific ethnicity through flesh tones and facial structures would have diminished the message’s impact.

Some people who have viewed the original pastel version I created years ago associated this image with the Madonna and Child, although I created this piece with no religious angle in mind. It is simply meant as a universal image of the unique bond between a mother and her child. The World In Her Hands seems like an appropriate title in either case people choose to view the piece. To Christians, it can be the Madonna and Child where they see the child as Jesus who was born into this world to save it.

However, from a non-religious standpoint, it can be any mother and any child and a reflection of how every child is his or her mother’s world. In either case, The World In Her Hands represents how at the end of the day, every child born into this world will create a ripple effect in the sea of humanity. Whichever type of person each child becomes and what help or harm they will bring into our world is shaped by their upbringing. Therefore, every mother in some way holds the world in her hands.

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