breastfeeding inspires emotive sculpture

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Big Mother - Further images at Patricia Piccinini's website

The Sierra Leone-born, Melbourne-based artist decided to give up in her failed attempts to breastfeed when her sister suggested she practise with her own six-month-old son.

“I thought, `I can’t do that. I’m not just an animal, and I am not a lactating animal for some other baby’,” she said. “But then this six-month-old taught me how to breastfeed, and how to breastfeed my own child.”

The work is confronting on many levels – from the stark, hairless nudity of the animal, its gorilla-sized arms and legs and baboon’s bottom and genitals, to the idea humans could engineer humanoid beasts as slaves.

[From Going ape over Art Gallery exhibit | Adelaide Now]

A friend recently wrote about this work on his blog and I was intrigued by the concept. this piece is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful, saddest and disturbing sculptures I’ve ever seen. on Patricia Piccinini’s website are further detail images showing the depth of detail and emotion in this piece.

The story rings on a very personal note. as a breastfeeding mother myself I can relate to her struggles at the beginning, breastfeeding a newborn is a tricky thing and during such an emotional time it is very easy to give up. I remember how many times I would have killed for a wet nurse! I think her friend was a genius to suggest she try an older child, perhaps it’s something more new mothers should consider. I wonder how I would have felt at that suggestion, you do feel like an animal- we joke about being a cow but it is a very animalistic action, based in nature and going back to our most primal roots. how wonderful that this suggestion has spawned such an interesting work.

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