ARLINGTON — Nearly 50 years ago, anthropologist Sheila Kitzinger coined the term “fourth trimester” to describe the first few weeks of a newborn’s life. It’s a new world where boundaries are befogged and bodies and emotions are messy.
Dr. Eva Zasloff founded Tova Health in Arlington in 2016 to minister to newborns and postpartum parents at home. The practice celebrates its 500th baby with an exhibition exploring the liminal experience of the fourth trimester.
“It’s very holy,” said Zasloff in an interview with the Globe. She is a painter, and the show, in her charming studio barn, features a star roster of local artists. It’s only open for a week, closing with an open house on Saturday, March 25.
“The fourth trimester felt like a dark tunnel I walked alone,” writes Katrine Hildebrandt-Hussey in the show’s brochure. Her son, Ash, born premature, was hospitalized for his first month. The artist’s “Continual Connection II,” featuring concentric circles fashioned from Ash’s prenatal sonograms, could be a picture from within that tunnel, the central light framed by the promise of a connection forged in utero.
Emily Auchincloss’s weaving, “…Journey Into Night” reflects a new parent trying to keep track in a haze of time. A copper moon hangs at the top as a pale line crosses back and forth below. The warp and weft create a reassuring rhythm, shapes and symbols and bands of color serve as signposts, but the path is windy and uncertain.
An abstract piece from “Mother series,” Zasloff’s ongoing reflection on the sacred passage from one body to two, elegantly captures the dark scoop of a dark form wrapped around a smaller, lighter one, although they still appear as one.
Other artists venture outside the prescribed trimester. Joetta Maue’s tender “39 weeks” is a grid of burp cloths embroidered with text describing the weekly development of her child during pregnancy. Crystalle Lacouture’s “MAMA Drawing #41,” in Day-Glo colors on a sheet made for target practice, reads like sacred geometry. It’s from a series she started to offer protection for her ailing mother. After her mother died, she continued it to support other mothers in need.
The fourth trimester is a portal that ripples across and beyond life like Hildebrandt-Hussey’s concentric circles. The reverence with which these artists treat this transitional time calls attention to how easily our society shrugs it off, and helps us envision better physical, soulful care.
IN THE FOURTH TRIMESTER
At the barn, 18 Mill Lane, Arlington. Open house Saturday, March 25, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. www.instagram.com/p/CofNZmHrYS3/