These portraits were created during my Fulbright Scholarship in Guanajuato, México in 2007-08.
I have always loved historical paintings of the Madonna and child, which follow a pattern of pictorial development throughout western art history. The Madonna appears sometimes blissful, sometimes sorrowful, but always selfless and devoted to her child. In these images motherhood is shown to be a noble, self-sacrificing task; and maternity becomes the embodiment of true femininity. I love these paintings, but I'm wary of them too.
For women today, regardless of whether they have children or remain childless by choice or circumstance, the question of motherhood is crucial. For some women the choice is easy; for others it becomes a confusing juxtaposition of conflicting desires; and for many it isn’t a choice at all. The issue raises various important questions about autonomy, social expectations, career options, and love; often becoming the most intimate mixture of the personal and the political. Women ask themselves: How can I remain active in my profession and also be a good mother? How can I be a devoted mother and still be a feminist? Finally, what would it mean for me to be a woman without ever being a mother?
These questions inspire my paintings, which are based on informal conversations with women I met in Guanajuato. As I paint, I try to translate my perception of each woman’s ideas about her identity into visual form. I hope the resulting portraits present a nuanced approach to the complex role of motherhood (or non-motherhood) for real women, while still reflecting my interest in art-historical influences.
Instintos Maternales, Galería Jesús Gallardo, Universidad de Guanajuato, México, June 2008
Maternal Instincts, Satellite Gallery, La Grande, OR, November 2008
“Maternal Instincts: Portraits of Women in Oregon and Mexico,” High Desert Journal, Spring 2009, Issue 9, p. 25 - 27