The long exposure times required for 19th century photography were not conducive to newborns and fidgety toddlers, a problem many mothers tried to fix by wrapping themselves in cloth and hiding behind furniture. As a result this Victorian portraitsWhile they capture a lovable phase of life, they are often spectral and slightly annoying and are shaded by phantom limbs and textile silhouettes that, despite their lively facial features, are very similar to a lifeless backdrop.
This desire for disguise shapes the multimedia works of the artist from the Philadelphia region Sarah Detweiler, whose current series Hidden mother can be seen at Paradigm Gallery until May 22nd. Depicted without children, Detweiler’s portraits undermine the original photos to instead draw attention to the characters that were otherwise deliberately pushed into the background. Fabrics made with a combination of oil, acrylic, gouache, watercolor and embroidered elements further confront traditional notions of femininity and motherhood by literally wrapping women in materials that have long been associated with domesticity.
Since the artist has a personal relationship with each subject, the textiles, motifs and colors evoke specific aspects of their personality and different experiences, resulting in idiosyncratic portraits that are only linked by their common identity. “While maintaining anonymity” an explanation About the series it is said that Detweiler “maintains a universal relativity – the woman under the shroud could be you, your mother, your friend.”
If your not in Philadelphia you can take it a virtual tour the sold out exhibition and clock these questions and answers with Detweiler for a deeper insight into the series, which is available as a limited edition print set Paradigmas website. Go to Instagram to learn more about the artist’s process, including some original photos that informed the portraits shown here.
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