Twelve years ago when I was pregnant with my first child, a (male) curatorial colleague asked whether I was now only going to schedule exhibitions about wombs and by women artists. Although I was perhaps understandably perturbed at first by this suggestion, I then promptly scheduled a solo show with Ernesto Neto.
Neto's room-encompassing installations were made of stretchy, stocking-like material and loose, transparent scrims; his organic forms are anthropomorphic, inviting, and immersive. Often filled with aromatic spices or malleable Styrofoam pellets and highly sensual in nature, the viewer was invited to stroke, caress and enter into the objects. He explained, "There is pleasure in being alive even in the most difficult moments."
Nicole Eisenman's Bring Your Daughter to Work Day (1994) depicts a herd of women walking through an urban environment each with a child under an arm. She uses a palette of browns, black, and ochre red. The scene can be interpreted as if the children -- and the efforts to include them -- are more of a burden than a delight.
Andrea Bowers's works on paper highly detail the people pictured as well as the signs they hold, especially due to the absence of any other descriptive elements. The mom with her son on her shoulders holding a sign detailing that his mom works states that he is "fine." It speaks specifically to me as a working mom. There is so much judgment placed on the choices that women make. Bowers often collaborates with another artist, Olga, who also has a son. As Bowers can attest to the boy's fine-ness, she made this work to honor them both.
Art can teach us many things. While having a family is a highly personal decision, with social, political, and economic implications, one of the unending pleasures of being around kids is their uncorrupted perspective on the newness, as well as the humor of life. Seeing things afresh, absent of bias and judgment, is key in looking at art. As kids have this ability inherently and naturally, they are excellent company, in art and in life.
Follow Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/heidizj