“Love Hours” is an exhibition of artists whose work investigates motherhood in a contemporary setting. In her poem “Candles,” Sylvia Plath describes the light on her nursing child’s face.
“I watch their spilt tears cloud and dull to pearls... How shall I tell anything at all, to this infant still in a birth-drowse?" Plath said. "Tonight, like a shawl, the mid-light enfolds her… The shadows stoop over the guests at a christening.”
In their complexity, such words express the feelings that emerge during the moments when parenthood begins, when children are drowsy and vulnerable, and when the boundaries between self and other blur as one rocks and nurses, in the darkness of night, into the latest of hours. Such moments are, of course, fleeting and quickly recede.
“The show is a tribute to these moments of parenthood,” said Utah Arts & Museums Director Lynnette Hiskey. “We’re delighted to have such wonderful artists exploring a time-honored subject in new ways.”
“Some artists, like Trevor Southey, idealize the tranquility of these love hours almost to the point of pain, examining the simultaneous burden and privilege of holding another soul in one’s arms," Curator Laura Hurtado said. "Others, like husband and wife Susan Krueger-Barber and Brad Barber, make manifest a sense of chaos that ensues when children are young, messy, and moments are dystopian, disorienting and confusing.”
Much of the artwork creates visual evidence of work unseen. This is especially the case with Leah Moses and Kelly Brooks, who take on abstraction and mark-making as a mode to render a record, a document of one’s labor. Some of the artists take on what Julia Kristeva calls “the enigma of gestation” and make efforts to place motherhood in a religious and devotional position situated somewhere in conversation with the divine, and do so by borrowing long-pervasive Madonna conventions or goddess imagery.
Other artists seek to disrupt such idealization and render parenthood without any efforts to idealize it or to equate maternity with the image of a holy mother. By reconstructing the image of the mother within a contemporary visual language, the artists take on new feminist art practices that don’t singularly deconstruct motherhood but rather complicate the experience outside of its traditional idealism.
The show’s title is taken from artist Mike Kelley, whose works of worn stuffed animals sewn together is called “More Love Hours than Can Ever be Repaid.” Many of the works in the show are mixed media and include film, drawing, found objects, fabric, books and sculpture. Artists include Leah Moses, Kelly Brooks, Nathan Florence, Trevor Southey, Susan Krueger-Barber and Brad Barber.