“You do not have to be clever, and you do not even have to think if you do not want to” in order to be a “good enough” mother.
– D.W. Winnicott.
This body of work examines the ambivalent feelings and fantasies many mothers experience towards their children. My intention is to unsettle idealized romantic representations of motherhood as found in Media and more traditional forms of representation. The mother often has to suppress negative feelings, such as yanking her child’s arm aggressively as they cross the road, so as not to be seen as a demon or as unworthy. She can feel persecutory guilt, frustration and maternal depression as she strives to live up to the idealized cultural fantasy of maternal ‘at-oneness.’ (Parker 1995)
Referencing the Madonna and Child in Western Art, and cropping the image to focus on the mother’s hands and breast, the loving gaze of the mother is disrupted. The viewer is invited to question the mother’s true identity in today’s society, and the notion of the loving hands of the mother. The dark background, emblematic of the deep abyss of the psyche, resonates in the dark thoughts and fantasies that emerge from the mother’s mind; emphasized by the use of chiaroscuro. The negative space acts as a balancing element in the composition emphasizing the tension and drama in the hands and actions of the mother.
With the mother’s gaze excluded, my subjects remain anonymous so they cannot be demonized or accused of not being a “good enough” mother. With titles such as Keep Still, Look Left Look Right, the viewer is invited into the dialogue between the mother and her child, and to contemplate a fresh interpretation of motherhood in modern society.
The project won a prize in the Digital Media Competition at MaMSIE The Maternal Studies Department at the University of Birbeck – featured in the conference ‘Motherhood, Servitude and the Delegation of Care’ 2011, on their digital archives, and Studies in the Maternal scholarly e-journal.
All images and text © Hester Jones
By Hester Jones
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