Cleveland Museum of Art Debuts New Exhibition on Motherhood This Week

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Not My Burden, 2019. Titus Kaphar (American, b. 1976). Oil on canvas; 167.6 x 153 cm. © Titus Kaphar. Image courtesy of the artist and Gagosian. Collection of Ellen Susman, Houston, Texas. Photo: Rob McKeever
  • Not My Burden, 2019. Titus Kaphar (American, b. 1976). Oil on canvas; 167.6 x 153 cm. © Titus Kaphar. Image courtesy of the artist and Gagosian. Collection of Ellen Susman, Houston, Texas. Photo: Rob McKeever

'Picturing Motherhood Now,' a new exhibition featuring a diverse collection of works by 33 contemporary artists, will open this Saturday, Oct. 16 at the Cleveland Museum of Art's Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Gallery and run through March 13, 2022.

The exhibition, which interprets current sociological and psychological aspects of motherhood, aims its focus on work created in the past two decades.



It asks questions about how the nuclear family and the concept of matriarchy have evolved over the past 20 years. Moreover, the exhibition challenges the changing definitions of family and gender, the histories and afterlives of slavery, the legacies of migration and the preservation of matrilineal Indigenous cultures, according to CMA.

"Picturing Motherhood Now examines contemporary interpretations of motherhood against the backdrop of the CMA’s encyclopedic collections,” said William M. Griswold, director of the CMA. “Visitors to this compelling exhibition will understand how these artists challenge traditional representations of motherhood and how they diverge from historical treatments of the theme.”



The exhibition is segmented into four themes: Missing Pictures, featuring artwork focused on aspects of motherhood that have been absent from traditional images of the subject; Making and Matrilineage, preserving matrilineal and Indigenous artistic traditions that are passed down from one generation of women to the next; Mother Tongue, examining how language and narrative are the primary mediums to animate strong female protagonists; and Kinships, celebrating unconventional ideas of motherhood and family.

“The subject of motherhood touches every human life—and its representation has been a major theme throughout the history of art,” said Emily Liebert, curator of contemporary art. “Images of motherhood reflect the eras and cultures in which they were created, and the art of the present is no exception. The artists whose work is in Picturing Motherhood Now cast new light on our own time.”

The concept of motherhood is an ever-evolving interpretation of the role the matriarchy plays in human development and encompasses some of our first memories. As it stands, everyone has a mother or comes from one rather, therefore the topic is as universal as it gets. Everyone can relate and everyone will have their own unique interpretation of the work projected onto them from our experience with our own mother’s by comparison and at times, possibly in contrast to the piece which the viewer is interpreting.

“This presentation also includes exciting newly commissioned work as well, including new work by artists Wendy Red Star, Carmen Winant and M. Carmen Lane,” said Nadiah Rivera Fellah, associate curator of contemporary art.

There will be a Fall Member’s Party sneak peak of the exhibition on Thursday, October 14, from 6 to 8:30 pm. Advance tickets are required and members can get free tickets online or by phone at 216-421-7350. Also a special ArtLens App tour will highlight 10 objects from the CMA’s permanent collection that depict mothers and maternity from antiquity to the 20th century.

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