I am a visual - conceptual artist identifying as a ‘mother/artist’. I have three boys aged 20, 13 and 4 and have been making work about motherhood since the birth of my second son in 2000. The main thrust propelling and informing my creative practice in the past decade is the experience of motherhood and my practice is a personal investigation of the limits of maternal subjectivity expressed through performance, photography and video. I publish and talk publicly about the subject of the motherhood in contemporary photographic art.
My work is motivated by my concern that mainstream maternal representations only reflect what is socially permitted, denying mothers representations with which they can identify and which can allow them to accept and cope with all aspects of maternal experience. I also worry that mothers face obstacles that prevent them from participating easily in cultural production and that the maternal is devalued as a subject for art practice, rendering maternal experience invisible in the arts.
I am a senior lecturer in Photography at the University of West London and teach on the BA and FdA Photography programmes. I am currently working on my doctoral thesis; my project title is ‘The mother as subject and author in contemporary visual art’.
I have recently delivered papers at the ‘From Private to Public’ symposium, Women’s Library, London (2011) and the Birth Rites Symposium, Whitechapel Gallery, London and Whitworth Gallery, Manchester (2011). My work has been selected for the photographic award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London (2006).
Feminist Artist Statement
My personal standpoint is that of a feminist artist and I make work that highlights the complexity of what it means to be a mother taking into account both social context and personal experience. Similarly to many feminists I am wholly supportive of the feminist movement and it’s broad aims but as a mother/artist I have an issue with the way mainstream feminism has dealt with motherhood. I am critical of the way motherhood had been marginalized by the second wave equality agenda. I identify the source of this marginalization in feminist activists of the time who struggled to reconcile mothers’ childcare responsibilities (which would undermine mothers’ capabilities to participate in the economic and political arenas) with their demands for total equal rights and therefore also identical workplace responsibilities in line with those of men.
This oversight (broadly speaking, there were some voices within the movement which had attempted to find solutions to mothers’ predicament) is detrimental to the lives of many Western women who suddenly find themselves in a 1950’s time warp when they become mothers. Their professional potential severely handicapped and domestic chores suddenly becoming their sole responsibility since their partner is now carrying the burden of providing for the family unit. Compromised professional potential also affects many female artists when they become mothers, a situation that restricts and minimizes the maternal voice within contemporary art, a situation that has repercussions for political awareness and the possibility of change.