Am I Not?

While the previous two paintings in this series explore some of the tensions between an infertile woman, her sense of self, and other fertile women, this final painting touches on the tension caused in a marriage. It captures the moment when Elkanah, the husband of Hannah, pleads with her, “Am I not better than ten sons?” The apparent worry, frustration, desire to fix the situation, and love for his wife recorded in the Bible carry through millennia.

The figures are situated just inside the doorway of a storage room, giving the viewer a sense of being almost uncomfortably close to an intimate and painful moment. Elkanah reaches out for Hannah with one hand as she turns away in sorrow. Their backs are to the warm welcoming light of the outside world and their focus is intently on the darkness within. Hannah gestures as she speaks but her hand also leads to a spilled basket of pomegranates to her right, alluding to her inability to maintain a viable pregnancy. This message is emphasized by the empty net above her head.

Just as the tension of Hannah’s weight against Elkanah’s pull can be seen in their hands, so the viewer can feel the dichotomous relationship of attraction and frustration between a couple who love each other but are grappling with the psychological and social pressures placed upon them by the experience of infertility.

“Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?”
                                                                                        —1 Samuel 1:8