MILF MOUTH MADNESS is a performative self-portrait photography project I shot during the Pandemic while working as a full time high school teacher for the day and mothering two children in the evening. I was feeling particularly constricted by the situation and the direct photography process allowed me to quickly express some of what I was trying to reconcile. One night I pictured some cheerios on a clichéd close up of sexy red lips and that set the series off. For a couple of months, I would find overtly parenting-related food or objects around the house to juxtapose with provocative mouths. With the series, I am trying to articulate something about this claustrophobic pandemic motherhood experience. The mouths are stifled by various domestic symbols, and the sexuality of the lip-sticked mouths is disrupted by incompatible fillings.
Shooting it felt like performance art. It was uncomfortable, and kind of gross to have alphagetti or macaroni stuffed into my mouth while posing seductively! It reminded me of the countless acts we perform as mothers, kneeling on a hard floor for longer than our knees recommend, bending over to zip up jackets, clean up spills, wipe noses, lift our children over and over again until our backs break. How do we force our bodies through so much labour and still manage to feel beautiful, sexual or available to all aspects of ourselves? By pushing against the restrictive roles of motherhood – and the cliched type of sexuality being played with in the photos – I felt a kind of catharsis happening, but I have by no means been relieved of the burdens I have attempted to work through in the series!
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Jen McGowan is coming back to her art practice after having and raising children. She has a BFA from Concordia University in Montreal and a BEd from UBC. She has been a high school Art, Film and Animation teacher for the last 20 years. Though motherhood asks so much, the role of a mother – so fraught and charged – drives her to make art whenever and however she can. Throughout the Pandemic the pressures on mothers (primarily) have increased exponentially, and art has been a lifeline. She uses drawing, painting, photography, collage and whatever materials she has on hand to explore her new identity through a feminist lens.
Her work has been included in shows throughout Canada, the US and internationally. In the last year her work was included in the Artist/Mother podcast online show, “You are not wonderful just because you are a Mother” curated by Qiana Mestrich, Spilt Milk Gallery’s online, “If not now, when?” and Visionary Art Collective’s online, “When Words Fail” curated by Grace Long. Her most recent show was in person and was called ‘Making Home’ curated by Kira Wu at the Fort Gallery in Vancouver, BC.
She lives in Vancouver, BC with her spouse, two children and an ornery cat.
© Jen McGowan