jasmine_tummy 001   Egg reach 001

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Mother Dough, 2013

I am a mother and yet I am childless. I am not a childless mother because I have conceived and lost, but one because I have always felt this ache, this pull towards my role as ‘Mother’. I search for my lost love object that which is impossible to find.

Through Mother Dough, I’ve allowed myself to explore these melancholic emotions on being a childless mother through substituting baking for a pregnancy, both experiences filled with metaphors of growth, nurturing and time passing. Through acting out this imagined maternal experience, I must face my deepest desire to have a child and my deepest fear to never have one.

As Mother Dough sits on the wall, it deceptively lures you in with an aesthetic of cosy motherly Englishness. The mind begins analysing the images’ strangeness; the simple act of subverting something so well-documented as maternity forces one to critique conventional imagery of motherhood and what they deem as wholesome maternal love.

Focusing on the creation involved in the baking as well as the artwork itself temporarily relieved my mind of the unbearable yearning for a pregnancy. Through kneading the dough or mixing ingredients, I drive all my anger, hopes and anxieties into the baked goods. My baking is pushed to its limit in search of a flesh that can be created with an oven.

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I reckon I’ll always get that strange feeling when I’m forming a piece of dough; It’s when I find the baking process really gets close to becoming my unborn unconceived ‘child’. Even now when I hold a baby’s hand, I get the same feeling as when I bake, deep in my stomach.

I tell myself to stop obsessing right now in my life over something so unhelpful as craving to be a mother. I hear people telling me to suck it up and get on with my life ‘whilst I still can’ – that it’ll come later. I’m happy that it’ll come later, it’s my body that has always felt otherwise. Gah – that niggling ‘but-what-if-it-never-comes-later?’ feeling deep in my bones again.

Now I’ve learnt to sort of cope with this craving, I guess I can sort of enjoy it’s ache.

I only wonder if it gets stronger and more potent with time.

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‘Mother Dough’ just exhibited in a South Korean subway station gallery with many other international artists, I can only wonder what these south korean commuters must have thought of this strange display of british homely motherly bakingness, especially as one image was chosen for posters and the catalogue.

My mother, who features in the photographs, is endlessly amused at the idea of middle-aged arty south korean men taking a catalogue home featuring her and her newly manicured nails covered in flour. I must admit, as am I. Can’t wait to get the catalogue in the post.

I wonder how my work was received. I wonder how it was read. Was it read differently to how it would be here in Britain? I’d like to think that some of the themes touched in ‘Mother Dough’ are universal. But were there any other layers that they could see that I could not?

I will likely never know; and much like me most of the time, I will continue to imagine and wonder on the thoughts of others.

 

About Jasmine Gauthier

Jasmine Gauthier is a young British artist, born in South Africa, whose photographic and written work currently explores the relationship between the maternal mind and body especially as a ‘childless mother’*. Her work often blends fiction and autobiography, creating its own narrative…Read more

Website: http://www.jasminegauthier.com

More posts by Jasmine Gauthier

6 Responses to “Mother Dough | Baking as a Childless Mother”

  1. Helen Sargeant

    I love that you chose to include your own mother within the work. That her body has become a metaphorical canvas upon which to project your own desires to mother.

    Reply
    • Jasmine Gauthier

      It really helped to work with my mother’s body as my own as we often project our mother’s maternity onto ourselves as well once we have a child. Thinking back to how we were brought up to inform how we will bring up our children in the future.

      At least that’s how I feel. 🙂
      Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  2. Frances Earnshaw

    I especially like your speculations on how the work was received in South Korea! Ideas come so stealthily, then they go out into the world… Mother Dough is one of your children. I believe the work will be perceived differently in many ways. But that the visceral feeling, that vulnerable, motherly hand dipping towards the jar of eggs, for example, will convey itself across cultures.

    Reply
    • Jasmine Gauthier

      Thank you for your thoughts on how the work could have been received in South Korea! It was just such a funny experience to imagine my images so far away from home, being gazed at by such different viewpoints. 🙂

      I think you’re right with the image of the eggs, I think it must speak across cultures as a symbol of maternal vulnerability too. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Rachel Fallon

    I love this piece. I think it is to do with the texture and sense of the dough, its pliability. I found as a new mother I was fascinated with my children’s skin and this reminds me so much of that and how they would curl into my body, melding themselves against me. I find it very interesting how many of us make ‘pregnant’ pieces before we’ve ever had children. Is it the desire to create? Are our creations also our ‘children’? I think the paintings I made before sprang from a desire to recreate myself.

    Reply
    • Jasmine Gauthier

      Thank you Rachel for your thoughts! It really is the texture and ‘body-ness’ of dough that makes it so fascinating in relation to the human body. It’s strength and yet its fragility. Sometimes it even has a warmth that gives the implication of life, sometimes the dough sticks and can really just become an extension of your fingers… Oh how I love it! 🙂

      I really can’t agree more about your statement about art creations, child creation, baking creation being all tangled up in a desire to recreate oneself. For me at least, it feels a lot like that most of the time. I create work I think out of trying to understand some strange obsessive feeling inside that needs to be communicated, whether just to myself or to others, like a little part of me wanting to be brought out of my body and into the world.

      It’s all getting a bit strange now thinking about it but really that’s how it feels. Not so much a desire to be understood but a desire to confirm my existence through the repetitive creation (and recreation) of ‘myself’.

      Reply

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