MOTHER’S MILK“I created Mother’s Milk as an examination of how we see our mother’s body. Most are uncomfortable or even disgusted by the thought, but when I look at my mother I see evidence of her sacrifice: all the scars that she earned to get me to the place I am today. Our society places so much value on the female body being ‘perfect’ while refusing to acknowledge that regardless of what you do, your body tells your story. And our stories are rarely perfect. Our bodies tell the tale of all we have been through, all we have lost, and all that we have gradually come back from. They represent our daily struggles, and what we gradually learn to live with every day. We have wrinkles from stress or smile lines from happiness, we have scars from abuse or skinned knees from play, we have weird freckles and strange spots. We are taught from a very young age that this is not right. We have been disconnected from our bodies to the point where we find it difficult to even accept the reality of something like losing a breast to cancer. And few would look far enough beyond the physical to empathize with what that person must have gone through to be able to accept that much change in their body.”
~Artist statement for Mother’s Milk. Artist Eric LaneAcrylic on wheat paste 3’x4′ April 2013
This was my son’s freshman final project at Cornish School of the Arts. I cannot tell you how proud I am of him, or how the power of his words and image affected me. He shot photos of me in the backyard and worked from those – I didn’t see the final work until it was hanging in the gallery. He received offers to buy it from the community, but chose instead to give it to me. While the art is about my particular struggle, his words also reflect his own. Eric and his sister were born with a birth “defect”, a very rare genetic skin condition that resulted in thick calluses on their hands and feet (Palmar Plantar Fasciitis). Throughout their childhood they endured taunting and the well-meaning but misplaced concern of school nurses and teachers fearing they were being abused. Both my children have gone on to be artists, using those very same hands to create beauty and express their innermost worlds. I am so proud of them, proud of what they have overcome. Proud that a 20-year-old young man has such a deep understanding of the challenges we all face – but particularly women – in a world that values image over content.
Eric was very much a part of my fight to recover from breast cancer. He was 16 when he laid on the gurney with me waiting for the anesthesia for surgery to take effect and he watched over me as I recovered. One afternoon when he commented that I was hugging him weird, I replied that I thought people could feel the harder prosthetic side and it made me self-conscious. Eric reached across and squeezed my good boob, then squeezed the prosthetic one. He hug me close, one side then the other, then both full on in a tight chest to chest hug, ignoring the tears that were welling in my eyes. “Nope, you’re good” was all he said.
It was a gift I will never forget. It was never about the boob – it was always the hug. It is never the scar, but the strength it took to get there. It is never a birth defect, but an early warning device to alert us to shallowness.
Thank you, Eric.