Sunday Feature- Jennifer McNichols
I had the pleasure of getting to know artist Jennifer McNichols online when we were both included in an exhibition called Mothers at the Woman Made Gallery in Chicago. Part of her series titled "Let Them Eat Cake" was included in the exhibition, and I had the pleasure of seeing it in person. The series was inspired by her experiences with cesarean section birth and the emotional turmoil which followed. Jennifer uses cake- a very traditional domestic item- to explore the complicated feelings which arose from her c-section.
Self- Preservation 2008- 2010
The work which I saw in person at the show in Chicago was called "Self- Preservation." It is a series of four mason jars with slices of white cake in each one. The jars are each labeled with different words- "Betrayed, Failure, Empty, Powerless." The delivery of the message is interesting. Canning and preserving are a typically female occupation, and a very traditional one. There's something banal and simple about canned items which contrasts powerfully with the messages. The use of jars also suggests that these feelings are literally bottled up.
Several of her pieces employ the use of whole cakes as a metaphor for the human body. Carved and Breached are two photographs which depict a cake which is carved or sectioned to mimic the actions on the human body in cesarean section. There's a visceral quality to these works- the fondant icing mimics skin and there is a vulnerable quality to these cakes which cause one to almost identify with them as persons. It's hard not to wince when looking at them, especially if you've experienced a c- section yourself.
Breached 2008- 2010
Mourned 2008- 2010
"From 2008 through 2010 I created and photographed a series of handmade and hand-decorated cakes and accompanying installation pieces exploring the feelings experienced by many women who suffer for the convenience of others through unnecessary and unplanned surgical childbirth. In so doing I hope to give form to the emotional landscape inhabited by many such women in solitude and silence while those around them celebrate, and to help those who have difficulty relating to post-Cesarean mothers explore the emotions felt by women they know and love.
The cakes, and the photographs of them, are intended to draw on a variety of touchpoints. There are their specific references, of course, to the restraints, drugs, and psychological aftereffects of unwanted Cesareans, but the medium is also the message. The white-fondant-covered cakes partake of both the white-tablecloth celebration and the funeral, highlighting the distance that can divide those with direct experience of trauma from the world around them despite what appear to be shared rituals. Their smooth surface but imperfect contours are suggestive of the vulnerable and naked human body, and their ghostly pallor hints at the inner corpus exposed under harsh lights in surgery. In the act of baking and decorating the cakes, I made and remade that captive flesh, building it up and staring it down through the lens of my camera." -Jennifer McNichols
Cold Comfort 2008- 2010
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
A blog on art, roller derby and life.
I'm an artist and mother of two in Courtenay, BC. I've completed a project called the "Madonna and Child Project," and I'm now working on a series of roller derby inspired drawings. In my spare time I play roller derby with the Brick House Betties.