Exhibit by Mya Cluff
“Where do I end, and you begin?” As a mother and an artist, I ask this question through my work; searching for the beginnings and endings of selfhood as I navigate the relationship I have with myself, my children, my family, and society within a maternal context.
Jessie Wilber Gallery
July 9 – August 6, 2021
Motherhood is rife with blurred boundaries. When the question of selfhood is broached through a maternal lens the parameters of individuality are obscured. The physical sharing of a body and the psychologically taxing marathon that is raising children trigger new negotiations of identity. As is frequently the case with biological milestones common to the human experience such as birth, and death, the nuances of motherhood often fall victim to mundanity.
My current work seeks to make room for a more empathetic view of the otherwise “mundane” moments of maternity that have not been shown such grace through the millenia. The physical relationship between mother and child, such as pregnancy and nursing are tropes that lend themselves to this process. My work leverages these themes to explore some of the more nebulous psychological aspects that equally affect motherhood, but being not visible, are not as easy to gain an understanding of. The goal being to demonstrate the complexity and nuance of motherhood that is lost in the generic archetype of “Mother” being only a creature dedicated to comfort and self-sacrifice.
In this exhibition I have used the human figure in ceramic sculpture to connect the dynamic qualities of intimacy and complexity of motherhood to the physical realm. The boundaries within the maternal are in perpetual flux. The daily change I experience in my relationship to my own children provides a rich source of material from which to draw inspiration. I also frequently turn to the powerful experiences of other mothers that I encounter in the form of testimonials, memoirs and friendship.
I have created this body of work to be viewed in conversation with one another. Works of intense euphoria are in context with works of deep grief and longing. To accurately visualize motherhood, one side cannot exist without the other. As is seen in the title piece of the show, small variations of gesture work together to demonstrate a subtly nuanced experience of the thin line between comfort, discomfort, and ritualistic repetition. The interpersonal relationships that exist within and around maternity are messy, overlapping, convoluted, and irreversible.
Mya Cluff is a studio artist living and working in Belgrade, Montana. Born and raised in Oregon, she moved to Montana in 2017 after graduating from the Oregon College of Art and Craft. She received a BFA in Craft with an emphasis in Ceramics, which remains her primary medium of choice. Her move to Montana was driven by a desire to be among the rich culture of American ceramics that stems from the Big Sky state. Raised among the arts, her childhood was situated within a tight-knit ceramics community, which shaped her desire to become a professional sculptor.
The birth of Mya’s firstborn daughter in the middle of her BFA was the catalyst of her investigation of the maternal through her art practice. Mya is intrigued with the psychological, political and interpersonal ramifications of motherhood. She uses her own experience as inspiration, as well as the stories of her peers, written accounts of motherhood, and maternal feminist theory to inform her work. Mya strives to give visual form to the intimacy and complexity of motherhood that is often lost through essentializing archetypes.
When she began this line of research, she found the art historical cannon was severely lacking information on artists working with this theme, and has since dedicated her work to increasing the visibility of motherhood in the arts.Mya has exhibited both nationally and internationally in group exhibitions, and has work in various private collections. She has participated as a mentor through the Artist/Mother Network as well as through local one-on-one mentorship in the Gallatin Valley.
She also participated in a short term residency at the Red Lodge Clay Center, in Red Lodge, MT. This show, “Where Do I End and You Begin” debuting at the Emerson Center for the Arts and Culture, is her first solo show. She would like to thank the Emerson gallery team for this opportunity to showcase her work.