A Suitable Accomplishment
January 14 - February 18, 2023 | 168 Suffolk Street, New York, NY 10002
A Suitable Accomplishment
January 14 - February 18, 2023
168 Suffolk Street, New York, NY 10002
Exhibitions about motherhood run the risk of falling short in many ways. It is very difficult to adequately capture the breadth of the experience. It is easy to tell only one side of the story or one version of it. Perhaps most disconcertingly, in an attempt to expand on the lived experience of women, we face the threat of inadvertently pigeonholing them into the role of mother, rather than interrogating the role itself. We might be compelled to ask, “where are the exhibitions about fatherhood?” While these concerns are merited, to avoid discussing the complexity of motherhood seems to be setting aside an important conversation for fear of having it incorrectly. This exhibition works to expand the conversation showcasing work by 13 artists who have been or are being confronted by the social and practical realities of motherhood.
In truth, all women are presented, at some point, with a question of motherhood. The decision to have or not have children, challenges of fertility, and the expectations of parenthood play out for women both cis and trans and for trans men in innumerable ways. A Suitable Accomplishment strives to explore the complex reality of navigating the creative options of motherhood and artistic pursuit. Works by Lydia Baker, Chellis Baird, Bahar and Shamsy Behbahani, Fernanda Feher, Isabelle Higgins, Barbara Ishikura, Jessica Frances Gregoire Lancaster, Alex McQuilkin, Shantel Miller, Azzah Sultan, Anna Marie Tendler, and Marika Thunder stitch together a complex discussion of their disparate experiences.
The exhibition takes its title from Linda Nochlin’s 1971 essay, Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? It takes a broad approach and considers the social expectations of women at various stages in their careers. Each of the women included in this exhibition is a daughter, several are mothers, some have elected not to have children, and some are still navigating this decision. Their work addresses this relationship and its expectations and complexities.
There is no singular experience of parenthood. It is love and trauma, family and loneliness, joy and desperation. The role of mother has been sacralised in figures such as the Virgin Mary or the Hindu Goddess Parvati. The horror of a bad mother is explored in archetypal evil-step mother characters, or in transgressive characters such as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. Whether good or evil, the mother is often defined through the experience of the child. She is not often understood as whole in her own right. This exhibition seeks to cast women and mothers as complete; artists who have proximity to family but are not wholly defined by it.