Mirrors made for exhibition at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art, Anchorage, Alaska, September 2015. Made with laser-cut acrylic mirror and plywood, and finished with stain and/or shellac, the original mirror is dedicated to my mother, Rae Ann Longbrake, at the behest of Esther Hong, whose work about her own mother inspired her to curate a group show about other women and their mothers. Rather than “a mother,” “being a mother,” “being a daughter,” or “mothers in general,” this show is about each participant’s own mother. This complex subject was quite a challenge! I found inspiration in the following passage:
“Maternal love takes many forms, not all of them benign, but one of the most essential is to provide an experience of attunement. “I see you” is probably the simplest expression of it. The security that he is seen and heard enables a child, as time passes, both to connect with others-to read their feelings and intentions, a crucial survival skill-and to become an individual who is real to himself. The eyes of a mother are the first mirror we encounter, and while no human mirror is without distortion, a good mother (or, as the great psychologist, D.W.Winnicott, puts it, more humbly, and more reassuringly, “a good enough mother”) is able to provide a true reflection.
“Every artist, in that sense, is also a mother, because the role of art, whatever it represents, has always been to provide the children of Eve and Adam with a self-conscious reflection of their place in nature and history; of their thoughts, fears, and desires; their flaws and absurdity; but also of their power and beauty-an image, in short of their uniqueness. “I am here,” the artist says, implying, as my son did, “And you are there. You see me, and I see you. We are two autonomous subjects, and there’s a distance between us-the distance one needs for perspective-but we’re in this together.” Perhaps, in that sense too, every mother is an artist’s mother, whether or not her child has an aesthetic bent. A mother’s gift is, ultimately, the example of steady, impartial discernment that each of us needs to create a self-portrait. And in whatever style they painted their mothers, the artists on these pages gratefully returned that deep gaze.”
Judith Thurman, The Artist’s Mother: a Tribute by History’s Greatest Artists to the Women Who Rocked Their Cradles, Overlook Duckworth, New York, 2009.