Alternative Maternals

Artists: Deborah Dudley (USA), Linda Duvall (Canada), Jeca Rodriguez-Colón (Puerto Rico), Miriam Schaer (USA), Valerie Walkerdine (UK)

Curator – Laura Gonzalez

Curator’s Statement – from Other Mother’s by Laura Gonzalez

My mother wanted me to be a divorce lawyer. During my teenage years, I tested her patience her with my willfulness and I suppose my super-human capacity to argue with her put the idea in her head that I should earn a living with what was perceived to be strong in my nature. My mother and I have never been close. Yet, there was a moment in my life when I have never understood someone so profoundly. My grandmother, her mother, was in hospital and, from her sick bed, kept nagging my mum for no apparent reason. Only my mum (not her two sisters) was the recipient of this insistent henpecking. It was constant, disapproving, damning. That my mother chose to confide in me, tell me her worries and fears, surprised me, but not as much as my own patient answer to her, my care and my unlimited love. I recognized what she was going through and was sorry for her suffering. This shared moment gave me insight: despite our differences and our distance, my mother is forever inscribed in me.

To paraphrase Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex, one is not born, but rather becomes, a mother.1 In this becoming, an invitation to alternatives and possibilities is apparent. There are no ideals to real motherhood, despite what the manuals say. Part of the reason for this is that there are many sides to motherhood, for example, pregnancy, birth, lactation, miscarriage and loss, love, disappointment, projection, sexuality, as well as womanhood. ‘Mothers, like analysts, can be good or not good enough; some can and some cannot carry the baby over from relating to usage’.2 The maternal is biological (that infamous clock), embodied, affective, experiential, social and cultural. It is visible and invisible at the same time; a balancing act. It is political too, for the demands of mothering are at odds with those of paid work. Art, a realm of practice adept at showing conflict, is the perfect site to articulate the fall between the real and ideal mothers, to create new models of knowledge despite the challenge of juggling both mothering and studio practices. The works in this exhibition are a direct engagement with sons and daughters, mothers and grandmothers, or their absence. Most of the pieces are created in the interstices between outside employment and caring; some while mothering, others while grieving. The five artists in Alternative Maternals focus on the political through activism (and artivism), on the relational in the experience of engaging with either a fiction or an actuality of the maternal bond. Through their experiences, they have had to re-make themselves. What is new about their proposition is their presentation (rather than re-presentation) of the maternal as art.3 This is about mothers but also beyond them, into the act of mothering, into the universal maternal.

Read more here: Other Mothers – Laura Gonzalez

Curator’s Bio

Laura González is an artist and writer, born in Spain and living in Glasgow, Scotland. When she is not reading, dancing or following the footsteps of Freud, Lacan and Marx with her camera, she teaches postgraduate students at the Glasgow School of Art and Transart Institute. Her current project explores knowledge and the body of the hysteric through film, dance, photography and text. She is the co-editor of a book entitled Madness, Women and the Power of Art (InterDisciplinary Press, Oxford, 2013) to which she contributed a work in collaboration with Eleanor Bowen.