Detail from: Leni Dothan. Sleeping Madonna, 2011. Mother, child, pencil drawing on wall, 2:46-minute video in loop.

Catherine McCormack, academic and expert in the field of maternal themes in art, curates a two-part exhibition exploring maternal experience and subjectivity.

The first exhibition explores the idea of ‘matrescence,’ a term developed byanthropologist Dana Raphael in 1973 in an attempt to theorise the transitional period of shifting the body and psyche in the process of becoming a mother, one that is never fully resolved. The curatorial themes for this show stem from a radical rethinking of the eponymous archetype of the silent, suffering and idealised mother as represented in Christian iconography as the Virgin Mother and child Jesus. This is continued in the theme of maternity/obscenity, which explores how images made around the subject of childbirth are heavily policed and censored, and how the maternal body in this powerful moment is very often eclipsed and erased or thought to be obscene, monstrous, even pornographic.

The remaining themes in the first show probe the territory of loss, obsolescence and negation of ‘mothering,’ whether through abortion or maternal death and obstetric violence, both areas that have come under increased political scrutiny. The exhibition also draws attention to the notion of the public and private reproductive body, with work that asks questions about the state versus the individual’s right to decide on contested practices such as abortion or access to fertility treatments and the visibility of pregnant mothers in the public arena.

—Catherine McCormack

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