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Dry Your Eyes, Mama, It’s Only Damien Hirst

I admit to being somewhat apprehensive when I was next in a queue fashioned to walk through Damien Hirst’s “Mother and Child Divided”. I imagined that the glass tanks would shatter, and I’d be soaked with formaldehyde and smothered by cow and calf organs. Of course, my experience was not this, and to my surprise I had a very emotional response to the work: I cried. I’m not entirely sure why, but such is my intimate relationship with art.  

The effect was similar when I viewed Anish Kapoor’s “Past Present Future” and Berlinde De Bruyckere’s “Schmerzensmann IV”. I was a mess, and no amount of intellectualizing the work could keep the weepies away. And these were pre-mama days. Now, I’m a wailing fool. I took my tiny tot to see Cy Twombly at Tate Modern a couple years ago, and because the flood caused by my tears could not be contained, I was afraid Mr. Todoli would never allow me back on the premises.  

This Mother’s Day (in the US), I thought it an opportune time to share with you a selection of ten artworks which have left lasting impressions on my psyche. All of the pieces were either created by a mother, depict a mother, were inspired by a mother, or serve as a visual ode to a mother. I am intrigued by the media – human placenta and umbilical cord – the psychology, humour, grief, empathy, and the decision to portray the complex being known as a mother in these pieces.  

Speaking of complex, any suggestions on how to usher my own little magnum opus – the one that’s running around the house with nothing but his birthday suit and an Iron Man mask on and saying “neighhh, neighhh” – into the bath?  


Anish Kapoor
Mother as a Mountain, 1985


Dorothea Lange
Young migratory mother, originally from Texas, 1940
Records of the Bureau of Agriculture, USA



Damien Hirst
Mother and Child Divided, 1993
Tate Collection
© Damien Hirst

Hyacinthe Rigaud
Portrait of the Artist's Mother, 1695
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Pablo Picasso
Mother and Child, c.1901
Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum
Bequest from the Collection of Maurice Wertheim

Julia Margaret Cameron
Divine Love, Mary Hillier, 1865

Marc Chagall
Bella with White Collar, 1917
Private Collection


Marc Quinn
Lucas, 2001


Jenny Saville
Reproduction drawing I (after the Leonardo cartoon), 2009-2010
Gagosian Gallery, London


Zhang Xiaogang
Mother with Three Sons (The Family Portrait), 1993


Category: Art, General, This Parenting Stuff


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