Carved by the Creator
Editor’s Note: Erin McKinnon of Airdrie, Alberta won second prize in the Fr. Ted Essay contest sponsored by Niagara Right to Life. The contest asked participants to reflect on a work of art and what it said about life.
An average afternoon highway drive often brings little excitement, offering nothing more to observe than familiar landscapes and blurred painted road lines, but this is not the kind of highway travel many drivers near the town of Santo Domingo in Colombia experience. Embedded into one particular mountainside next to the road lies a remarkably sculpted figure of a human fetus within its mother’s womb. Completed in 2012, artist Dubian Monsalve’s rock carving, “Pregnant Mountain,” demonstrates the potential for art to express, encourage, and speak to a deeper meaning when humanity seeks to avail its God-given ambition for creativity. Through his sculpted work, Dubian illustrates the truth of pre-born human life’s preciousness through a simple, yet powerful image that one could simply not ignore without contemplating its underlying significance. As an artist, Monsalve’s production of the sculpture to render the delicate and valuable nature of human life through both his choice of setting and designed image parallels God’s artistry and His creation of us as His treasured masterpiece.
Monsalve’s selection of a mountainside canvas adjacent to a highway is one interesting aspect of his piece. Enveloped by the surroundings of the earthen rock, his fetal sculpture sends a profound message to those who drive by it. It conveys the preciousness of human life through the eyes of God himself, who “long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love” (Eph. 1:4). This sculpture, integrated into a mountain of the “earth’s foundations,” symbolizes God’s foreknowledge of every human, not just from its conception, but before that mountain and all the earth was even created by Him. This substantiates the utter preciousness of human life before its birth, for the value and worth of a creation is defined by its Creator.
The placement of the sculpture by a highway corresponds with Russel L. Ackoff’s words that “Art inspires, produces an unwillingness to settle for what we have and a desire for something better…” Viewed by many who may be skeptical towards the idea of pre-born life possessing worth, the sculpture reminds one of where a human soul obtains its existence, provokes one’s imagination, and may cause people to re-think their ideas about life in a way that inspires them to go further in promoting and protecting life rather than killing it. The image serves not as misleading propaganda but as a gentle depiction of truth. It seeks not to control the human who observes it but to dignify the human it portrays. A simple image of an innocent child carries considerable potential in speaking to the hearts and minds of those who view it.
Monsalve’s arrangement of the entire figure as it would appear within the womb is another significant aspect of the art piece. It is within the womb where important intricate and stunning cellular processes become knit together by the hands of God to yield a genetically unique human creation made in the image of its Creator. According to a 2016 Ipsos poll, 6 in 10 Canadians support abortion under any circumstance. Canadian criminal law offers no legal defence for pre-born life and according to the Criminal Code, a “child” becomes a “human being” deserving of protection only after it has been born. Our society today embodies a culture of death, mercilessly condoning the termination of human life beyond its natural cessation and placing value only on the tangible human. Life has become disposable simply because it is contained within a womb.
However, invisible or out of the way places often hide the most complex and essential processes. For example, plants all around us absorb nutrients and carbon dioxide through a complicated cellular process to create oxygen, an essential requirement for living, yet we aren’t able to witness this with the naked eye. The rock carving reminds us that there is preciousness in that which is unseen. The unborn child portrayed appears to be in its 35th to 40th week of gestation, and thus doesn’t manifest the earliest cellular stage of human life, but the fact that it is still contained within the womb implies that it originated from it. It exhibits the truth that all human life began from this type of cellular appearance and that human is still human, regardless of what period in physical development it expresses.
On the other hand, the sculpture’s detailed and vivid human features also display evidence of the physical definition of human. It’s minuscule fingers, toes, and ears resemble those much like a newborn baby, the only difference being that the sculpted figure represents such a human still enclosed within the womb. Since the 1988 Morgentaler decision abortion has been tolerated throughout all nine months of pregnancy, from conception to birth. Nobody in her right mind would ever ponder the idea of killing a new-born baby. But if that same baby were to have still been within the uterine environment of its fetal development just a few days earlier, its abortion would be argued as justified by many, despite the fact that these two same human beings in question bear indistinguishable physical features. This identical human possesses two entirely different fates merely because of where it exists. Monsalve’s sculpture challenges viewers to look beyond the tangibility of human.
By deliberately placing this familiar human image in a not-so-familiar view of within its womb, Dubian has widened the angle of society’s lenses, enabling people to discern and contemplate an often overlooked image reflecting the prospect for human life from conception. He has created a representation of a controversial matter, but a representation which holds empowering possibility to liberate people from a distorted perspective of human life and prompt them to examine it through new eyes. It is as if Monsalve has “carved away” the barrier of deception and ignorance regarding pre-born life. So often people presume that “ignorance is bliss,” and hence if a human being cannot be recognized, but only appears to be solely a clustered mass of dividing cells, then it must not be human. The outer crusted stone face of the mountain symbolizes this barrier of blindness that encompasses the society in which we live. Monsalve has carved this lack of perception away and has depicted an image of the reality of human woWith the sheer number of abortions occurring each year, it seems that the truth of human preciousness will never be agreed upon universally. Because we live in a society which has disconnected itself from God, many of the morals regarding human life instituted by Him have been lost. Nonetheless, the key to understanding the value of pre-born life is to perceive it through the eyes of God. This perspective is greatly exemplified, inspired and encouraged through Monsalve’s “Pregnant Mountain.” We cannot see back in time prior to the earth’s creation or view directly into a mother’s womb, but God can, and by depicting this sculpted image of a human as God would see it, Monsalve has properly spoken to the preciousness of human life and the essence of an artist’s love for what He creates.