What might it mean to make work ‘thinking as a mother’? This was how American artist Nancy Spero (1926-2009) described a series of angry gouache sketches which were painted while her children slept at night. Made in 1960 when the child-centred permissive parenting movement was at its height, these scratchy, aggressive works with nightmare figures are an obscure rendering of motherhood, picturing not domestic labour, but a murky, sometimes frightening world. Exploring the idea of ‘thinking as a mother’, my article considers how the experience of caring for children might inflect how work is both made and viewed. Drawing on the work of Lisa Baraitser, I argue that through the artwork’s picturing of the suppressed psychic turbulence of mothering, artist and viewer are brought together, facilitating a kind of imaginative community that supports both. Using Spero’s works on paper, with their strange, aggressive figures and scumbled, scratchy backgrounds as a case study for thinking through how maternal experience is communicated through art objects, this article considers how artworks can act as allies in negotiating the complex emotional terrain of motherhood.
|Number of pages||39|
|Journal||Oxford Art Journal|
|Early online date||5 Dec 2022|
|Publication status||Published - 2 Mar 2023|