Home Truths: Photography and Motherhood
Home Truths is a curatorial project that examines photographic artworks depicting the experience and symbolism of motherhood in contemporary Western culture. Favouring autobiographical and documentary approaches in art photography of the 2000s, my curatorial practice draws on feminist precedents in art making and writing. There are four main outcomes to this project: an exhibition; an edited book; public programmes and a digital display titled Motherlode. In its entirety Home Truths negotiates what it means to be a mother in the twenty-first century, grappling with stereotypes, personal expectations and cultural constraints, revealing the maternal self to have both agency and power. The artists featured include: Janine Antoni, Elina Brotherus, Elinor Carucci, Ana Casas Broda, Fred Hüning, Leigh Ledare, Hanna Putz, Katie Murray, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Tierney Gearon, Miyako Ishuichi and Ann Fessler.
In this thesis I investigate contemporary ‘maternal ambivalence’, which I identify as a response to social norms, expectations and the cultural conditions of mothering. I use the frame of ‘life narrative’ to examine maternal ambivalence in the artworks I have curated, contextualizing these within depictions of mothering in the larger photographic culture of motherhood.
This thesis outlines the emergence and contextualization of the curated project and takes an expanded view of the possibilities of curating. I examine how Home Truths functioned in relation to institutions, audiences, aesthetics and display culture through the conditions (institutional, economic, aesthetic and theoretical) in which it existed. Crucially, I ask how one experiences the photography in Home Truths. Rather than viewing the different iterations of maternal life narratives examined here (literature, art photography and social networking) in contradistinction, I argue for them to be seen as productive expressions of self whose invocation of maternal subjectivities are reinforced and sustained by their relationship to one another.