Motherhood is often romanticised in society, symbolised by a loving mother, devoted to her offspring. Mothers are regularly placed high on a pedestal, a model of caregiving, wisdom and unconditional love. In today’s modern world, she is still viewed as a symbol of femininity and fertility.
Yet beneath the surface lies a profound complexity. Artist, Klara Jones, has dared to explore this intricate topic in her thought-provoking exhibition, Our Mother, which presents a compelling version of motherhood with all its challenges and mental load of being a mother.
Mental Juggling Act
One of the themes explored in this exhibition is the mental load that mothers bear. Beyond the physical demands, there is a constant mental juggling act, as mothers tirelessly manage the demanding web of responsibilities that come with raising a family. Through her artwork, Jones captures the weight of decision-making, planning, and organising that often falls on the shoulders of mothers. The exhibition invites viewers to contemplate the toll this mental load takes on mothers and encourages a deeper appreciation for their tireless efforts.
Klara Jones invites observers to wrestle with their own perceptions and assumptions of motherhood, as she unveils a raw and authentic portrayal that resonates with all who have experienced the joys and struggles of being a mother.
Through her remarkable artwork, Jones sheds light on the often overlooked aspects of motherhood, creating an exhibition that will resonate deeply with audiences.
I have a specific interest in this exhibition as I specialise as a Mother-Daughter Coach, helping women with their challenging mother-daughter relationships.
In my practice, women open their hearts and share their anger and disappointment at high expectations within their crucial relationship, of feeling unseen and unheard, and the grief of lack of connection with their mother or daughter. Adult daughters share experiences of a difficult relationship with their own mother and do not want to repeat history with their own children. Women want to stop the cycle of disconnection so it doesn’t continue to the next generation.
Unmasking the Mysteries
The Gippsland Art Gallery said “Jones presents a collection of new artworks inspired by personal and shared experiences of family.” Klara Jones has done exceptional work to present this exhibit, the centrepiece being the sombre elderly figure, Old Mother. A life size sculpture of an ageing mother, barefoot and in her dressing gown, her knitting and a cup of tea on the table beside her.
Klara Jones fearlessly tackles the hidden complexities of motherhood, revealing the unspoken mysteries that lie within. By skilfully capturing the nuances of this role, Jones offers visitors a rare glimpse into the multifaceted layers of a mother’s life. Her art serves as a mirror, reflecting the struggles, sacrifices, and untold stories of countless women who navigate the terrain of motherhood. Through her striking images, Klara Jones illuminates the true essence of this intricate journey.
During Mother-Daughter Coaching sessions, women often talk about the struggles and conflict they experience with their mother or daughter. A mother sees her reflection in her daughter as her daughter develops personally and professionally over the years. Education that may have been denied to the mother or grandmother. Career and personal goals are realised for a daughter yet they may be unrealised hopes and dreams for the mother. A daughter becomes her mother’s uncomfortable mirror, reflecting back what the mother feels she missed out on. There is grief, there is loss.
Complex Nature Of The Mother-Child Relationship
Children, with their boundless energy and relentless curiosity, bring both joy and challenges to a mother’s life. Klara Jones expertly portrays the multifaceted nature of the mother-child relationship, showcasing the tenderness, chaos, and unspoken emotions that intertwine within it.
Her art captures the delicate dance of the nurturing quality of a mother while depicting the complexities and struggles inherent in raising children.
Klara Jones also explores generational differences, how mothering has changed over several decades.
One of the themes that contribute to a difficult mother-daughter relationship are generational differences. Each not understanding and not accepting why they think and do things differently. You are both adults, it’s okay to have different opinions, different lifestyles, but sometimes mothers or daughters have problems accepting these differences.
Consider that you both were born in different eras and brought up in different families. This means you were raised differently to the previous generation of daughters. Jones illustrated this by contrasting a formal drawing of herself with her mother in 1956, with a more relaxed portrait of a mother and daughter in recent times.
When I see mothers and daughters in my practice, daughters are eager to hear their mother’s stories of growing up in a time so different to present-day life. What was mother like before she became a mother? What were her dreams, ambitions, her fears and struggles?
Just a few decades ago, women had to give up their jobs once they married. Their life trajectory was matrimony, care and support for husband, nurture and vigilance for children. She was housewife, homemaker, mother. Often she was labelled the ‘Good Mother’, the one who offered support, encouragement, protection. She was the one expected to instil good behaviour into her children. When her children would go ‘off the rails’, she was often blamed as the bad mother. Jones shows this in her portrait of a mother at the kitchen bench, waiting to satisfy her children’s needs, but ignoring her own.
Society’s beliefs were that women had to prove their worth. Guilt and blame were placed on women if their relationship ‘fell apart’. It was the woman’s responsibility to keep ‘her man’ happy. If he wasn’t happy, then blame the woman. If her child misbehaved, it was the fault of the mother. Too many judgements on women, too much guilt lobbed at mothers.
Women now have more choice about career, children, finances. She doesn’t need her partner’s approval to buy a home. Bank accounts can be in her name only, not in husband’s name only. Yet expectations on mothers still exist – the mental load of juggling work and children is enormous.
Jones’ art prompts viewers to reflect on the societal expectations placed on mothers and challenges us to appreciate and support their individual dreams and aspirations.
A feature of this exhibit is the Couch Mother, a super-size soft sculpted model of a warm mothering presence, inviting visitors to snuggle into her for a warm-hearted hug. Isn’t this what all daughters crave? What we all yearn for? Warmth, a snuggle-cuddle, security, acceptance, unconditional love.
Selfless Acts Of Mothers
At the heart of Jones’ exhibition lies a profound exploration of the sacrifices mothers make in their relentless dedication to their families. By depicting the life taken up by the needs of the family, Jones provides a powerful visual representation of the countless compromises and selfless acts that mothers embrace.
Klara Jones: Our Mother exhibition is at the Gippsland Art Gallery, ends 20 August.
Janice Williams is the only Certified Mother-Daughter Relationship Specialist in Australia and the South Pacific region.
Sessions are available across Australia and worldwide.