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Acts of Creation: On Art and Motherhood

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Long taboo, lived experiences of motherhood – and all that accompanies it – are now the subject of urgent discussion. Acts of Creation: On Art and Motherhood delves into the joys and heartaches, mess, myths and mishaps of motherhood through over 150 artworks, from ancient goddess artifacts to contemporary interpretations of pregnancy in the present.

While the Madonna and Child archetype has dominated Western art, we rarely encounter art about real motherhood, in all its raw, unfiltered complexity. Renowned author and curator Hettie Judah examines how shifting ideals of motherhood have been constructed and promoted through visual culture. Moving into the 20th and 21st centuries, it also looks at how women artists – among them Barbara Hepworth, Jenny Saville, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Betye Saar, Suzanne Valadon, Louise Bourgeois, Carrie Mae Weems – have worked to subvert these ideals and reclaim the narrative. Women have long been told that they cannot be both an artist and a mother: here the artist mother is instead addressed as an important cultural paradigm. Acts of Creation explores lived experience of motherhood – and of not becoming a mother – offering a complex account that engages with ongoing concerns around gender, caregiving and reproductive rights.

Published to coincide with the acclaimed Hayward Gallery touring exhibition of the same name, Acts of Creation is an engaging, thought-provoking and richly illustrated must-read on the evolving discourse on motherhood, offering a fresh perspective that challenges conventions and inspires change.

Hardback, 272 pages