What is motherhood? What does it mean to be a mother? These questions are explored in Mother Tongue, the upcoming exhibition at North Van Arts.
“Our mother tongue is the first language we learn, the sounds we hear and know to repeat and attach meaning. Perhaps our first tongue is our mother’s heartbeat, the sound of being surrounded and protected, two bodies, synced and inseparable. This unification is where motherhood begins.
This connection has been the basis for when we speak about motherhood. It is expected for mothers to express love, tenderness, willingness, fulfilment, and make every effort to maintain this bond and for mothers to replace themselves with their children and sacrifice themselves for their child.”
Statement from the artists.
Artists Sara Khan, Laura Rosengren, and Katherine Duclos address the complex range of emotions and practices inherent in the life-changing transformation motherhood brings. This exhibition draws together multiple mothers’ narratives by creating a visual language of their experiences, challenging the idealized preconceived notions of motherhood. We invite viewers to experience the joyful, chaotic, loud, incredible, and surreal elements of being a Mother.
Sara Khan’s work speaks to the ambivalence that the experience of motherhood brings with it, re-examining the process through which women are physically and emotionally disfigured during their transformation into mothers. To Khan, motherhood is a series of extremes, a balance between growth and withering away; Mother as a fertile garden, mother as a body, emotions unravelling, and coming together again. Her artwork, with its delicate lines and decorative elements, balance this turbulence.
Laura Rosengren’s work reflects on motherhood, labour, and domesticity. The images create stories of domestic rituals that are both familiar and strange. The paintings, both specific and vague highlight the instability of memory carried in our bodies, objects and photographs. By introducing materials like wool and wax, and processes like scrubbing and stitching the work also amplifies the nature of mother work with its material disruptions and accomodations.
Katherine Duclos’ work examines the weight of sustaining life with her body and explores this subject using collected items, including donated pumps, bottles & teats, and expired frozen breastmilk from other mothers. This paraphernalia forms symbols that speak to ‘the machine’ of the female body and the supply and demand process of pumping, feeding, and devoting your body to another. Duclos uses cement to signify this burden’s weight and paints with saved breastmilk that mothers have kept in their freezers long after their babies stopped feeding.