A typical Mother’s Day celebration may involve flowers, chocolates, handmade gifts that spell out “MOM”, or mugs and novelty that vibrantly tell her that she is the best. Artists, however, may have a different approach to celebrate their birth-givers.
Here are ten artists, and ten takes of their mothers:
1. Mona Hatoum:
Hatoum grew up to be displaced; she was born to Palestinian immigrants living in Beirut, and while she was in London completing a visit in 1975, war in Beirut broke out, and she was required to stay in England for her safety.
In Measures of Distance, Hatoum has presented footage of her mother with overlaying Arabic texts, which are sourced back to letters exchanged from Hatoum to her mother, as way of immortalising their long-distance relationship, as well as visiting concepts of war, displacement, disorientation and exile caused by war.
2. Khalil Gebran:
The Lebanese artist had celebrated mothers, and has expressed his fascination with motherhood in various forms of his work, be it in poems (The Broken Wings), or through painting. One of his many paintings that revolve around the theme of motherhood, is an oil painting of his very own mother—it is a striking work, as her angsty expression creates an interesting contrast with the fierce lioness behind her.
Rembrandt often used his mother as a model for his paintings, mostly as a study of an elderly. He even allowed his colleagues, and students to use the same figure in their paintings.
Hockney liked to paint the people he knew best, and the artist had a very close bond with his mother, as he would call her “my person.” Laura Hockney was the subject of most of her son’s portraits. With painting his mother, he meant to portray unfulfillment, and his relationship with her.
5. Andy Warhol:
Early in his career, July Wahola—Andy’s mother, was a frequent artistic collaborator with the influential artist. He considered his mother to be one of his biggest supporters, and inspirations, creating artwork dedicated to her, and celebrating their relationship.
6. Arshile Gorky:
Born Vosdanik Manook Adoian, Gorky lost his mother to starvation in the Armenian Genocide. For a large portion of his career, he devoted his works to revisit areas of his lost childhood, thus producing works with his mother in them.
7. James McNeill Whistler:
The famous painting of Anna Whistler posing for her son generated a lot of unverified theories as to why the painting was produced in the first place. It is said that his mother substituted for a model that had missed the appointment with her painter son, and that the model was supposed to be standing up, however, Mrs. Whistler got to tired, and had to sit down—with her pose resulting to be an icon in the arts world.
8. Beauford Delaney:
Born to an empowering mother, Delaney chose to honor her by a number of portraits. His mother was born into slavery, and never learned to read nor write. She had transferred a sense of dignity, self-esteem, and strength to her children to live by, and that is how the artist chooses to remember his mother.
Schiele’s view on motherhood was conflicting. He had a poor relationship with his own mother, who had failed to support his artistic pursuits for all of his life. From Schiele’s point of view, his mother, or any mother at all represented nothing more than a useful expedient, a means to an end.
10. Tracey Emin:
Emin’s relationship with her mother was quite complex. The artist’s mother lead an ambiguous love affair with a woman, which she tried (and eventually failed) to keep away from her daughter. Emin’s mother could not balance her responsibilities as a mother and a secret lover, leading up to never being around enough for her daughter. After her mother’s passing, Emin felt another sense of loss, even greater than the loss she had been feeling all of her life.