“Picturing Motherhood Now” is a must see exhibition in Cleveland

Motherhood and the way we define and value it is something we have all worked to understand at some point in our lives. Maybe no one is more criticized and criticized than the person who fills the role of mother.

One of the best exhibits on display in Northeast Ohio in recent years is at the Cleveland Museum of Art. “Picturing Motherhood Now” features 34 different contemporary artists whose work interprets “motherhood” as a term with many different meanings.

The exhibition features works of art created over the past two decades and is divided into four thematic sections. “Missing Pictures” features works of art focusing on aspects of motherhood that have been absent from traditional subject images. “Making and Matrilineage” features artists working to preserve traditions passed down from one generation of women to the next. “Mother Tongue” focuses on artists who use language and storytelling as primary mediums to animate strong female protagonists. “Kinships” celebrates unconventional ideas of motherhood and family.

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“Picturing Motherhood Now” is filled with quality work and deeply powerful imagery. From the way the exhibit is presented to the pieces chosen for inclusion, this is one of the most engaging exhibits you’ll be able to see anywhere.

“Not My Burden” is a 2019 oil on canvas by Titus Kaphar. In the painting, two black women are sitting on a purple sofa holding two children. Each child is cut into silhouettes so that the wall behind the canvas is visible. Behind the women and the silhouettes of children is a lamppost, a wall decorated with ferns, and what appear to be other ancient plants.

An old-fashioned picture of a large white family is also framed on the wall. The interpretations of this image are multiple and shared in the educational information of the museum. One is that of the babysitter role in which black women have often worked for white families and the other is that of a reference to the lives of black sons and daughters “tragically lost before their mother’s eyes.”

An interesting aspect of this exhibit, and it is included with this particular work, is that of “Community Voice”.

The museum has chosen to include the voices of people in the community and their personal perspectives on what is on display. For “Not My Burden” a member of the community shared an interpretation of the work and ends with the keen insight of this painting being “resistance to black women as guardians for everyone”. It is a bold move on the part of the museum to add the “Voices of Community” aspect to such an important and timely exhibit. That says a lot about what this exhibition and this museum strive to promote and communicate.

"Threshold" (2019) by Caroline Caycedo.  Three hand-dyed artisanal fishing nets, lead weights, metal rings, paracord, a carved gold wooden pan (batea) and red, yellow and orange flowers.  Collection of Maria and Harry Hopper of Malibu, California.

“Limen” by Carolina Caycedo is a 2019 assembly of three hand-dyed artisanal fishing nets, lead weights, metal rings, paracord, carved gold wooden pan (batea) and red flowers , yellow and orange. This work is part of the artist’s ongoing research into South American riparian indigenous communities and their resilience to the effects of climate change.

This piece catches your eye with its use of color (orange and yellow) and its large size. The piece also casts detailed and intense shadows on the walls and floor of the gallery, which helps to give the work and the artist’s other pieces that are similarly executed a more intense presence than they do. would not have it otherwise.

"Genesis" (2017) by Rose B. Simpson.  Ceramics and mixed media.  Courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman, San Francisco.

“Genesis” is a 2017 ceramic and multimedia piece by Rose B. Simpson. The work features a terracotta female figure holding a small baby. From the top of the woman’s head comes a ring that looks like a gear like a part of a large machine. It is an imposing sculpture that has an impression of weight and movement, even through the contemplative stillness of the mother and child depicted.

Carmen Winant’s “Passing On” is a collection of New York Times feminist obituaries that have been heavily annotated by the artist. The obituaries have been taped to the wall, and the artist’s personal handwriting helps tie in the importance and exultation to the person whose obituaries were chosen for inclusion. The artist includes a meaningful quote from her mother in the work’s label: “The generation that invented modern feminism and brought about social revolution is passing. How will we keep them in mind? “

“Picturing Motherhood Now” is a rare opportunity to see quality work by artists you probably already know, coupled with the exciting work of people you probably don’t know. It is an exhibition full of emotions and reflection that would be invaluable for everyone.

Anderson Turner is Director of Collection and Galleries at Kent State University School of Art. Contact him at [email protected]


Exposure: Imagine motherhood now until March 13

Place: Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd., Cleveland

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Tickets: Adults $ 12; seniors, students with ID and children 12 to 17 years old $ 10; guest members $ 6; children 11 and under and museum members are admitted free

More information: https://www.clevelandart.org from 216-421-7350

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