PORT TOWNSEND — A Canadian artist is displaying a series of multimedia portraits of motherhood at Fort Worden State Park in an unconventional celebration of Mother’s Day.
“Motherhood is one of the most powerful professions in the world because they are creating the next generation,” said Emily van Lidth de Jeude of Bowen Island, B.C., as she finished the installation of the MAMA Project on Wednesday afternoon.
“There are so many different stories, but in a way, they are all very much the same,” she said.
The exhibit, which opened Wednesday, will be open from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. today and Friday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday — which is Mother’s Day — on the second floor of Building 204, which is between the guard house and Fort Worden Commons.
The artist said a diverse group of women can be in a room and begin talking about the same thing, the joys and hardships of bearing children.
The 35-year-old artist, who worked as a teacher, developed the idea for the exhibit when her children, now 6 and 9, were born.
She interviewed and recorded women talking about motherhood and developed a show that is a combination of art, words and sound.
The exhibit displays images of 24 women who van Lidth de Jeude interviewed, their translucent acrylic portraits painted on torn, stained sheets.
Their words are painted in rough script aside each portrait, though the quotes don’t always correspond to the person in the image.
Their voices also are heard.
In the background are the recorded voices of the women talking about their experiences of mothering.
“The voices move across the space, as if the mothers are walking or conversing among the sheets,” van Lidth de Jeude says on her website www.mamaproject.com.
A book and pencil are available for visitors to share their own thoughts about mothering.
Not all of the women pictured are mothers.
The artist interviewed her own daughter.
Another of those interviewed was a 45-year-old midwife who was frustrated because she could not find the right partner with whom to have a child.
The exhibit is a work in progress, since van Lidth de Jeude continues to interview women for inclusion.
Each interview takes about two hours, during which time she asks the interviewees to reveal their feelings about their experiences, either as mother or mothered.
During the interviews she shoots a series of photographs that becomes the basis for the portraits, which are then painted on the white cotton sheets.
“I want them to be torn and stained,” she said of the sheets.
“When I get contributions of brand-new, clean sheets, I tear them at the edges and stain them myself.”
This is the fourth time van Lidth de Jeude has exhibited the MAMA Project.
She plans to take it down the West Coast in a combination exhibition tour and interview-gathering mission, after which time she hopes the show will at least double in size.
The show is in Port Townsend because Steve and Elaine Bailey saw the exhibit last year in Vancouver, B.C., and extended the invitation to van Lidth de Jeude.
Steve Bailey of the Jefferson County Historical Society is the manager of the Commanding Officer’s Quarters Museum.
He received permission to use the large room but was unable to secure any funding.
As a consolation, van Lidth de Jeude and her family are staying with the Baileys for the weekend.
The financing is by the artist herself.
Once her children are older, she will seek other funding and perhaps resume her teaching career, but for the time being, she is “just taking it as far as it will go,” she said
The project taught van Lidth de Jeude a lot about motherhood — and some things about herself.
While interviewing her own mother, she heard stories about abuse as well as stories about her mother’s parenting mistakes.
“When I was a kid, she dropped me on the head, which I never knew about,” she said.
“She still feels guilty about that.”
Women who wish to participate in the project can email van Lidth de Jeude at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website.
________Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at email@example.com.