I interviewed 20 mothers of various descriptions, gathered their words and expressions, and put them together to form an installation of mothers' experience in sound and portraiture. Portraiture sounds so staid. They're not. They're moving emotional experiences on stained bedsheets. With the faces and gestures of real mothers.
When I began this project, over a year ago, it was about gathering the diverse experiences of motherhood for an open and honest exploration. I knew then that "the point" would change as the project grew, and it has.
By the time I had done a few interviews, I knew that the show was not about just being, but about growing. Every single interview was (for me) about exploring the journey between our pasts and our futures, and the reasons we choose the paths we follow. The history that makes us who we are, and how we come to value ourselves in the world we create.
Now that I've watched people's reactions to the installation, my experience of it has grown, again. I see people come in and take in each mother slowly, then stand gazing into the white spaces as the recorded voices speak. Some people spend 5 minutes in the gallery, most about 20 minutes to 1/2 an hour, and some spend more than an hour. Many also return, having thought about what they've seen, to sit quietly and process again. It's an individual journey, and most return alone. Of course I don't know what they're all thinking about, but a few have told me that they're getting to know their own mothers. These have mostly been young women without children, and older men. The ability to look into the experience of mothers in general connects us with our own mothers, of course, and I think that is a connection many of us are searching for. Some have been looking because their mothers are gone, and some are looking to deepen their understanding of women they still have in their lives. Some have shared deep, buried feelings with me, and shed tears they said had been hiding for many years.
I don't know how the project will grow and change over the years, of course, but the journey so far is amazing for me.