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Happy Accidents

Vanessa Crosbie Ramsay

Artist Statement

Science shows that improving the early life environment for new humans leads to better health over a lifetime. Science also shows that choices made during pregnancy can affect a child’s development. With this in mind, women are told to behave in certain ways to give their offspring the best lives possible. However, these choices are only a small part of a complex puzzle. Fathers and grandparents also share biological responsibility for the health of their future descendants. 


Traditionally, mothers were the primary caregivers for babies and children in a family. This is still expected today. Holding this responsibility means mothers are often blamed when a child is not ‘healthy’. Though there are many other factors that might be involved, these are rarely considered. Women of colour, and women who are disabled, queer, or struggling economically often face even more blame. 


Many factors beyond our control affect health and wellness. Difficulties accessing food, resources, and care have broad impacts on people. When a family’s basic needs are not met, it can affect them for several generations. Luckily, we can create healthier environments. Creating supportive systems removes these barriers. This allows all parents to make good choices for their children. 


The experiments and tools used by researchers in the Sloboda Lab sparked this work. Over many weeks of trial and error, I created a process for making the colourful pieces. Agar powder, water, and ink were mixed, heated, and then poured into Petri dishes. (In the science lab, bacteria and other organisms are grown in Petri dishes. Agar helps them grow.) While ‘aging’, each of my pieces developed into a unique form. But, they all started their life cycle this same way. It is worth noting that unplanned features sometimes carried through from one batch to the next. My own careless actions affected future ‘generations’ on a small scale.


Like a child’s bedroom mobile, my piece hangs suspended. The tree branch offers structure. It also refers broadly to the ideas of growth, nature, and ‘environment’. The work gently interacts with air and light. This reflects how the chance circumstances of our birth can cast long shadows over our lives. 

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