gravity locked her in rotation

Allison DeBritz

2018 - 2021

In "gravity locked her in rotation" I explore three generations of female artists, my mother’s memory surrounding her abusive childhood with a mentally ill mother, and her experience breaking the cycle of generational trauma. I am the third generation of female artists after my mother and grandmother. Despite their talent and education, both women became wives, mothers, and homemakers, giving up their artistic careers to raise a family. The connection between these repeating matrilineal strains, interrupted artistic practices, and history of mental illness deeply affected my ability to imagine my future as an artist and mother simultaneously. I began this project as an opportunity to examine the trauma and fate of the women in my family and the conflicting fear and desire their legacy has instilled in me while interrogating the sacrifice and gendered expectations entrenched in motherhood—specifically the roles women are expected to fulfill in domestic spaces and relationships. In the process of creating this work, my mother and I had many honest conversations, helping me understand that her dedication to motherhood allowed her to heal from the abuse of her childhood. This spurred my desire to generate dialogue through my work about motherhood and mental health that is capacious, honest, and accessible. My images are intimately tied to the physical body, obsessing over its power and plasticity as it relates to pregnancy, motherhood, and aging. I engage with familial vernacular and idioms of family portraiture by using my sister, mother, grandmother, and myself as models performing for the lens. My images reject cliché tropes of motherhood and mental illness while refusing the systems that fuel internalized sexism and gendered binaries. Instead, this work and its collaborative process expand the complicated and nuanced understanding my mother and I have of ourselves as women and artists as we navigate our relationship, breaking cycles of abuse.

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