When Judith Gait met “Father X,” it was a lopsided grief that drew them together. He had lost his only chance at fatherhood through an abortion years ago. Gait is a married mother of five, and long-term American resident in Britain. Her support of the pro-life movement is driven by “thankfulness and praise” for life and her Christian faith.
Witnessing abortion’s heavy toll on the living and dead, Gait began to make the paintings almost no one else seemed to be doing. Subtle and working entirely with symbolism, these simple artworks avoid screaming about abortion. Rather, they mourn in color, symbol and tone with single shoes, broken cord, dead flowers and other lonely and broken things.
When a friend first visited Gait’s studio, he was struck by her abortion paintings. Confessing years of torment after his partner aborted his child, he wrote: “I realize your work comes from a place of great love, for it attempts to give defenseless life the dignity and protection it never knew in our throw away culture.”
Gait invited him to pray with her for his lost child. It happened to be the anniversary of the death of his baby, five years to the day. Father X remembers every detail.
Their conversation grew into a joint effort, culminating in a book, “Troubadours Sailing Hibiscus Seas: Meditations on Post Abortion Trauma.” Father X wanted to remain anonymous, as a place-setter for millions of unconsidered fathers in the acts of abortion. He wrote poetic and powerful statements for each of Gait’s 30 paintings in this book, which have also been shown together in art exhibits.
Time and neglect does not necessarily heal the wounds of abortion, Gait claims. Rather, “the past refocuses into a sharper image and the pain through an iterative process of silence, guilt and remorse has not abated.” You can see that in the words of Father X, which run the gamut of human emotions.
“Jonah of Nineveh” features an upended, single rose with red cords and funereal foliage. Flowers are “already in the birth position, head down and waiting to be born.” Torn and shroud-like ribbons hang across the painting. Spirals represent a child’s DNA helix and the “veil of the Temple which has just been so rudely shaken down to its foundation.” Father X makes an analogy between Jonah fleeing “parental responsibility” and eventual redemption – then veers off to his own personal engulfment in almost a stream of consciousness: “It was her wedding dress, my sea green empress, this blue lagoon princess she slipped into her own heart of darkness on that day she decided to abort and when time really stopped in our lives. She was full of fear. …”
In some of these works, hammers incongruently hang with flowers. They are bloody or blackened, some submerged underwater or hanging from a noose. Father X interprets these tools as decision markers, to either build or tear down. In “Hammer of Decision,” it belongs to Thor, the war god “infested with his one eyed wisdom of intrigue and destruction.” Wagner, the Olympics, “sperm races,” Thomas Moore and Valkyries are all inducted into this choice by the author. Either the Carpenter’s “hammer of wisdom” or Thor’s “tool of chaos” will be chosen by expectant parents.
“Troubadours” runs from elegant poetry to sentiment over babies and an ad hoc theology. Striving to extend lives of children lost to abortion, the authors create a fantasy universe of possibilities. This includes moonlighting for angels, celestial games, “interstellar wind-jammers” and a “baby steamer sailing on children’s seas,” among other delightful prospects. Lost and murdered infants in these tales pine for love or for a family in their Limbos.
Father X occasionally speculates on spiritual issues outside the Bible or the treatment of abortion in other religions. Running from nursery rhymes and quotes to historical characters, these are not theological statements, but a type of literary yearning that seeks an answer to abortion.
In Gait’s “Pink Rose” and “Stardust,” we see empty fields, withered plants and other tokens. Father X takes off from here on fanciful trips for the lost children. He places them in a cosmic waiting rooms or dancing in circles, which is reflected in the painting. Children are disfigured, or missing eyes or arms and singing in “low mournful tones” so as not to disturb their parents. Music is “intense, equivalent to the sound created by Hildegard von Bingen (a 12th-century nun and composer).
References to Mary as a mother are common, as well as other scriptural allusions. “All babies jump for Jesus” in the womb (or in “its sack of nibbling yoke”) writes Father X. Elizabeth’s child John “leapt for joy, just as his ancestor David did before the ark of the covenant,” he continues.
Gait addresses the human embryo, finding Biblical, ethical or emotional arguments for its worth at all stages. Her “Abbey Target Beginning” has a crosshair target, which is interpreted spiritually: “The first target blastula conflates the first cellular divisions with the laver bread – the bread on fire with the Holy Spirit the same stage of development as the child in Mary’s womb when she arrived at her cousin Elizabeth’s house.”
Post-abort guilt isn’t rationalized or downplayed, but emotionally reacted to in art and word. Father X describes bats as whirling about “in circles at the pitiful sound the [aborted] children make” because they are tuned to such distressing signals. This contrasts with many parents who are “still stone deaf” to such mournful sounds. At another point, Father-X imputes the collective white noise of guilt to attacks of tinnitus, a roar of unwanted thoughts.
Father X elaborates on what Gait hints in her paintings: the injustice and evil of abortion. He cites a world built on slavery before Christ’s advent, and the works of such men as William Wilberforce and John Brown in furthering Christ’s gospel of justice and peace. All this is contrasted to abortion throughout.
Ruminating on Gait’s “Palms of our Lord,” Father X claims “the face of the baby is in the midst of the ruins of the abortion. “Palms” is murky, with a single, red hand print. “To look at the after birth of an abortion is to read the Tarot of Ruins,” he continues.
“Suicide” advances this dark theme, where Gait and Father X criticize the death industry and it’s euphemistically named “clinics.” He takes a few swings at the girl gangs of the glass ceilings: “… a caricature of a woman who made a mistake, who got herself in trouble, who has had an abortion and afterwards committed suicide in her heart.”
But all isn’t baleful and sad here. In “Cloud Children,” Father X muses on paper dolls in Gait’s paintings with this lovely thought: “Where children go … is a mystery. … Some say they take their daytime rest in Christ’s tomb in Jerusalem, and like him when their time is come they will ascend into heaven before a quire of angels and assembled Star Ships.”
“Troubadours Sailing Hibiscus Seas” is a work of meditation, grief counseling, poetry, social commentary and visual art. Father X may not reveal his identity here, but the reader comes to know intimate details about relationships and emotions surrounding the death of his only child. Gait and Father X describe their efforts as a “silent prayer of witness for all the ghost families, those Phantoms of Sorrows, who will never laugh or cry together as a family, because of an abortion.” They hope that prying open the tightly locked matter of abortion will help to heal those who have had abortions or are victimized in some way.
Judith Gait is a graduate of California College of Arts and Crafts and received a Masters at Oxford’s Ruskin School of Fine Drawing. Her work is in public and private collections in America and abroad. She is an American citizen, residing in Britain. Father X is an addictions counselor and writer in Great Britain, who prefers to remain anonymous.
“Troubadours Sailing Hibiscus Seas:Meditations on Post Abortion Trauma” is a coffee-table size, 103-page paper book, with 33 color-illustrations and related commentary. You can purchase it at Amazon U.S. or Amazon UK.