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Home Truths: Photography, Motherhood and Loss - Foundling Museum

Still from the Pale Blue River film by Ann Fessler. Copyright: the Director.

Exhibition preview

FOUR contemporary photographers explore issues of motherhood and loss in Home Truths: Photography, Motherhood and Loss, an exhibition curated by Susan Bright that will be on display at the Foundling Museum from Friday, October 11, 2013 to Sunday, January 5, 2014.

Home Truths presents a series of meditations on maternal relationships that are highly personal, often documentary and that challenge the familiar stereotypes associated with images of motherhood.

Curator Susan Bright has selected work by artists Ann Fessler (b. 1950, USA), Tierney Gearon (b. 1963, USA), Miyako Ishiuchi (b. 1947, Japan) and Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (b. 1964, UK) that encompass film, digital collage, still life, reportage and vernacular photography.

Set within the context of the Foundling Museum, these works are at once haunting and engaging.

Shot with a collage of recent video and archival footage of the farms and rivers of the rural Midwest, Fessler’s Along the Pale Blue River (pictured) is an autobiographical tale about a young pregnant girl who flees her rural community for a town where she can be invisible, and the daughter who returns forty years later.

Through a yearbook picture, Fessler discovers the source of the river from her childhood town and realises it has always flowed from her mother to her.

Gearon came to public attention in the UK when her photographs of her children were exhibited as part of I Am A Camera at the Saatchi Gallery in 2001. With The Mother Project she shifts her attention to her elderly mother who is both bipolar and schizophrenic.

The project, which took eight years to complete, looks at complex familial relationships and raises issues around ageing, mental health and the role of photography, which is used here as a tool to try and connect and establish a relationship that has been lost (or was never there).

In her Mother’s series Ishiuchi, one of Japan’s foremost female photographers, shows the objects that she started to photograph after her mother’s unexpected death. The objects are delicate and often threadbare and are all treated as an extension of her mother’s body. The feeling of loss and melancholy reverberates around the pieces as they act as a material trace of the mother that once was.

For her ongoing series Re-generation, Palakunnathu Matthew animates vernacular photographs of her family and friends to show how the dynamic of the family changes over time, as people die and children are born. Without a specific ancestral narrative, the viewer is left to guess at the histories, relationships and dramas revealed by the familiar poses.

Bright says, “My idea for this exhibition is to look at how maternal loss can manifest itself in a variety of ways, sometimes in an obvious way like death, but also sometimes it is not known or secret and photography can only give hints.”

Home Truths is a collaboration with the Photographers’ Gallery, London. The exhibition is showing across the two sites, with artists at the Foundling Museum addressing issues of motherhood and loss, while those at The Photographers’ Gallery consider motherhood and identity.

Artists showing work at the Gallery are Janine Antoni (b. 1964, Bahamas), Elina Brotherus (b. 1972, Finland), Elinor Carucci (b. 1971, Israel), Ana Casas Broda (b. 1965, Spain), Fred Hüning (b. 1966, Germany), Leigh Ledare (b. 1976, USA), and Hanna Putz (b. 1987, Austria).

The exhibition is accompanied by a major publication co-published by The Photographers’ Gallery, Art/Books, The Foundling Museum and The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago.

During the exhibition, the Foundling Museum will also be screening the UK premier of Ann Fessler’s film A Girl Like Her, as well as Tierney Gearon’s film The Mother Project.

Admission (includes entrance to all temporary exhibitions and displays): £7.50, concessions £5, National Trust members half price, children free.

Times: Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm; Sunday, 11am to 5pm; closed on Mondays.

The Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1AZ

Tel: +44 (0)20 7841 3600