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.
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.
‘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.