“Stretch Marks,” a multidisciplinary group exhibition examining the maternal experience and relationships with mothers and Mother Earth, is on view through Nov. 20 at Barrett Barrera Projects’ projects+gallery in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood. Ladue News spoke with curator Jennifer Seas about this “beautiful to disturbing to funny” range of works by 23 contemporary artists.
What inspired the “Stretch Marks” exhibition?
All the work I do is dedicated to my mother, who passed away in 1999. A big part of me becoming an adult was contending with that loss and then the birth of my son one year, one month, one week and one hour from the moment she took her last breath while I was sitting next to her. She taught me a great deal about care, both in the way she lived her life and in the way I became her primary caretaker at the end of her life. I bring that understanding of care to the projects I work on.
Describe what’s examined in this exhibition.
The exhibition explores what it means to have a body and therefore a mother – the relationship to one’s own mother, which may be marked by grief or longing; the relationship to a child as a maternal body; or the relationship to the Earth … or even the cosmos.
The title, “Stretch Marks,” came from that idea of desire, longing, reaching … thinking about both the mark on the body related to pregnancy, and stretching or reaching toward another body, perhaps through time. There are many images of hands that refer back to that idea of reaching or touching. There are also works with roots or trees referencing genealogy and lineage.
Tell us about the featured artists and works.
Works are from the Barrett Barrera archives and artists from Kansas City and St. Louis. Mediums range from painting, drawing, fiber and quilting to sculpture and an interactive experience. Amy Reidel’s Mombies are little ceramic figures of maternal bodies. Natalie Baldeon documents her own experience as a maternal body. She paints from baby monitor images, so the works are photographic and markings – it ties together the two bodies of work … I was drawn to [while curating this collection]: photographic images of motherhood and more visceral, material artwork.
Share more about the show’s interactive art.
There is programming for interactive artwork with Caitlin Metz. People can respond to a prompt from Caitlin about what it means to be born. While you’re recounting that story, Caitlin makes a blind contour portrait of you – which involves the artist not looking at the paper, but looking at the subject. Follow the gallery on social media for interactive event updates.
What do you hope visitors take from this exhibition?
I hope people consider the maternal body in more expanded dimensions and ways this relates to their own lives. Some people think if they’re not a mother, this show isn’t about them. But if you have a body, you have a mother. I also hope the show might remind people of making and of caring, and of honoring our ancestors and tending to the future.
projects+gallery, 4733 McPherson Ave., St. Louis, 314-899-0666, projects-gallery.com