The Cleveland Museum of Art holds centuries of art depicting motherhood, perhaps most commonly seen through works of the Virgin Mary and the child. While browsing the collection of this museum, two curators of contemporary art wondered how artists represent motherhood today.
The resulting exhibition, “Imagine motherhood now”, Presents the various ways in which mothering manifests itself in art, from raising children to fighting for future generations, while intentionally highlighting diverse creators and works.
“We want to bring voices, points of view and topics that have not always been highlighted throughout art history,” said Emily Liebert, curator of contemporary art at the museum. .
The show’s first room, titled “Missing Pictures”, focuses on such a performance. One play, for example, depicts a mother and daughter who are undocumented immigrants. Another painting shows two black women holding babies that appear as white figures on their knees.
“Not My Burden” by Titus Kaphar as seen in “Picturing Motherhood Now” at the Cleveland Museum of Art. [Carrie Wise / Ideastream Public Media]
“Do they represent the white children that black women have cared for historically?” Or do they represent the children of mothers and therefore represent children who were taken from their mothers too early? Said Liébert. “I think the painting leaves room for one or many other interpretations.”
The exhibition goes beyond imagery of mothers and children and presents motherhood much more broadly.
“It has become a really interesting lens for thinking about our everyday life and the present we inhabit,” said Liebert.
LaToya Ruby Frazier’s photograph documents families facing the lead water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Photograph of LaToya Ruby Frazier as seen in “Picturing Motherhood Now” at the Cleveland Museum of Art. [Carrie Wise / Ideastream Public Media]
“She used three generations of women to talk about an ecological crisis, as well as social justice, examining how this crisis has affected different people in different ways, especially on low income families and people of color. “, Liebert mentioned.
Cleveland artist M. Carmen Lane demonstrates “giving birth to an organization” through her photography, said Nadiah Rivera Fellah, associate curator of contemporary art at the museum.
Lane features six pieces in the exhibit that tell the story of the transformation of a house in Cleveland’s Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood into a center of creativity and healing called ATNSC (pronounced Ata-en-sic).
Photograph of Mr. Carmen Lane seen in “Picturing Motherhood Now” at the Cleveland Museum of Art. [Carrie Wise / Ideastream Public Media]
Another work that Rivera Fellah said she was delighted to share in the exhibit is that of indigenous artist Wendy Red Star.
“She created this really wonderful commission for the job which is a portrait of her great-great-grandmother, herself and her daughter, so kind of a call[ing] pay attention to how the culture is passed down through the women in the family, ”said Rivera Fellah.
Wendy Red Star’s “Amnía (Echo)” as seen in “Picturing Motherhood Now” at the Cleveland Museum of Art. [Carrie Wise / Ideastream Public Media]
While most of the artists featured in the exhibit are female, the exhibit also includes non-binary and male perspectives on motherhood.
“I think it’s a topic that every artist has access to and every visitor has access to,” Liebert said. “We really hope that everyone who walks into this exhibit finds a point of connection, finds a point of entry, finds something that speaks to them and their experience and perhaps learns something that they did not have. not thought of before. “
“Picturing Motherhood Now” is on view until March 2022.