Art exhibition shines spotlight on childlessness

Justine Walker
Justine Walker

For some people, not being able to have children can be hard to talk about.

But a Wellington artist is shedding light on the subject with her new exhibition at Wellington's Toi Pōneke Arts Centre, and she's drawn on her own experience of childlessness.

It's by far Justine Walkers's most personal exhibition.

For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn explores Walker and her partner's fruitless five-year journey to conceive a child.

Her works touch on feelings of shame, grief and what she calls the "crazy train" of trying to get pregnant.

"It's just this really repetitive, monthly thing - that's monthly disappointment - so a lot of the works are repetitive in nature like that," Walker says.

Many New Zealanders struggle with infertility and are left with only one possible solution - costly and time-consuming fertility treatment.

But as Walker can attest to, IVF doesn't always work.

Adding to complications, the Ministry of Health says one to two out of every 10 pregnancies end in miscarriage.

"I just want to bring it out in the open a little bit and tell a few people that you're not alone in this," Walker says.

Walker says it can be hard to grieve over something that never was, describing the immense loss she felt when she and her partner finally decided to stop trying.

"There's no funeral, and no particular closure moment. Nobody really knows what to say. There's no kind of protocols around it, so it feels very isolating as a person."

Walker hopes For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn helps shed light on what is considered by many as a taboo topic.