I recently finished this mixed media piece I’m calling “The National Obsession with Breasts.” I’ve had this piece up my sleeve, figuratively speaking, for a while now but the idea got somewhat eclipsed by the 2016 election cycle and the debate about gun violence that have been taking up more of my creative thought-life lately. I finally decided to just get this piece out of the way so that I could fully move on mentally to other things.
“The National Obsession with Breasts” was inspired by different incidences I’ve heard about over the past few years dealing with women getting harassed for breastfeeding in public and having their breast-feeing photos removed from social media. Truly my own thinking about this issue has evolved as I’ve been confronted with more information and observed more of my friends and family members going through the rigors of motherhood (seriously, it is HARD!) I have come to see the debate over whether public breastfeeding is appropriate as undeniably strange given the fact that I can’t walk down the street of my home city of Philadelphia or go through a day of normal computer and phone use without being witness to photos of women in lingerie or revealing clothing in ads, fashion spreads or selfies.
My intention isn’t to complain about the prevalence of scantily clad women here… honestly it’s not something I have thought very much about. But the contrast in the way we, as a society, process these two very different ways of thinking about women’s’ bodies seems out of balance and unhealthy. I believe it mostly comes down to the way we have been conditioned to see breasts- sexually. Not every society does or has seen breasts as purely sexual objects and it is a fact that breasts have had the very crucial role of sustaining life for hundreds of thousands of years.
I don’t think the average person is out to shame mothers and welcome in pornography with open arms. I truly think the vast majority of folks who have a problem with public breastfeeding are probably just ignorant of the way they have been conditioned to think about breasts. After all, Victoria’s Secret ads are everywhere… it’s been utterly normalized. But we are only now just starting to see breastfeeding sit-ins and more women willing to take the risk of feeding their children publicly. I think we just need more time for breastfeeding to become normalized again after becoming so taboo in the post World War II rise of a more modern, convenient and “civilized” America.
There is a long history of religious artwork depicting Mary breastfeeding an infant Jesus. These are pieces that were created to be objects of meditation and aids in worship and spiritual life. In other words, these works of art were not intended to be or seen as sexual. By placing present-day “complaints” about breastfeeding into the context of religious subject matter from a long tradition I hope to highlight the ridiculousness of objecting to something so basic, ancient and wonderful. The presence of an iPhone in the piece is to represent the all-seeing-eye of modern media that is recording and disseminating this debate.
What do you think about breastfeeding? What do you think about this piece? I’d love to hear your feedback! In the meantime please enjoy these masterful paintings of babies and breasts!
**UPDATE: A friend just shared this video of a spoken word piece called Embarrassed performed by Hollie McNish, video directed by Jake Dypka. This is an AMAZING piece worth checking out so click here.**