In a Quick Sketch of a Fetus

Gonzalez Suero, Anna. 2022. In a Quick Sketch of a Fetus. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

In a quick sketch of a fetus explores my artistic work with the iconic image of the fetus and its consequences for my sense of self as a woman and as an artist. This thesis is an attempt to understand, through the autoethnographic method of connecting the personal to the cultural, the wider implications of visualizing the fetus in isolation from a pregnant body. I begin the autoethnography by exploring how I learned as a child what a fetus can look like by being around my grandfather, who worked as an obstetrician. I move on from there to my early drawings that depict the fetus as a singular form when I became a "creative patient" of gynecology, reflecting back on my large-scale collages that visually merge fetuses with phalluses, through to my video and performance work with pregnant women, after which I gradually stopped my entire artistic practice. This autoethnography, which investigates how the fetus form became a theme of my work, reveals that there was a dimension to working with this form that I was not aware of and which eventually dominated my artistic practice, until I quit practicing art altogether.

This autoethnography makes two interconnected contributions to knowledge: one is to the field of art by sharing my story of quitting art, a story that is usually not told due to the idealization of the role of the artist in society; the other is to feminist research by offering an insight into some of the potential consequences of the gynecological practice of examining the asymptomatic, non-pregnant patient with ultrasound technology. In Germany, where I have lived for many years, a gynecological examination may include an ultrasound scan. As part of this autoethnography, I analyze my patient experiences of being routinely scanned as a heterosexually active, asymptomatic woman who does not want to reproduce, focusing on how these scans provoked the working on and continual reworking of my artistic fetus forms in various ways, through different mediums, a development over years which created a feeling of being stuck. I use the concept of liminality to argue that these preventive scans can actually put women, particularly non-mothers, in a limbo or in-between state that is existentially chaotic and profoundly destabilizing. This autoethnography also raises awareness of how these scans can serve to frame the nonpregnant body as always not-pregnant-yet, and thus women who are not mothers as mothers-to-be, subjecting them to an implicit form of preconception health monitoring.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Additional Information:

Reworked parts from sections of two chapters of this thesis were published on July 29, 2022 as: Gonzalez Suero, Anna (2023) "The Foetus Phallus Studio," in Jones, Meredith and Callahan, Evelyn (eds.) Performing the Penis: Phalluses in 21st Century Cultures. London and New York: Routledge, 26-47. doi: 10.4324/9781003108481-3.


gender roles, autoethnography, women's heath, feminist studies, reproductive politics, creativity, medical technology, artistic practice

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31 December 2022

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Date Deposited:

09 Jan 2023 15:08

Last Modified:

09 Jan 2023 18:00


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