Collections Highlights: Beyond the Embrace

The artistic theme of Mother and Child began with prehistoric fertility figures and has endured in Western art depictions of the Madonna and Christ child. Early Modern artists in the late 19th Century, beginning with Gustave Courbet, turned from painting idealized historical narratives to the realities of daily life. Artists, and especially women such as Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot, began to portray the everyday relationships of women and children in their intimate circles. Contemporary artists continue to explore the theme of “Mother and Child” as society’s ideas of family and gender roles expand.

The surrounding selections from the YAM collection are contemporary variations on the timeless theme of family. Beth Lo depicts generational connection and continuity by stacking ceramic figures like Russian Matryoshka dolls. Ken Blackbird’s Victoria Has The Eagle and Great-Great Grandchild and Luccio Pozzi’s Ansedonia also portray generational connections, drawing a line from past to future. Rudy Autio and Will Barnet represent motherhood and love using simple abstract shapes, evoking nature through the addition of animal forms. Charlie Russell depicts a traditional mother and child in bronze and a screen print by Jessie Wilber captures the joy of outdoor play. Finally, Jill Brody’s photographs from the series Hidden in Plain Sight document the daily lives of contemporary women and children living traditional lives in the Hutterite colony in Liberty County, MT.

Everyone alive was once helpless and dependent on love for sustenance. Whether by birth, adoption, or community, there is a special bond between a child and its primary caregiver. The person who fills the role of “mother” might be a father, grandparent, or another family member, and “family” may be defined by birth or by choice. This exhibition invites visitors to reflect on their own roots, and on their own understandings of family.