Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Jessica Johnson, Sunderland, UK
Artist Leanne Pearce
Portraits with purpose “Breastfeed”
As a relative newcomer to the breastfeeding club, walking into a room of floor to ceiling paintings of mothers feeding their young was a bit like finding a lost tribe. Forget fumbling around for the scarf, the nursing apron, or even the table napkin, to cover up a wriggling, hungry baby. Here—depicted through ten powerful pieces of art worked up in a mix of soft pastels and oils—breasts are free, totally un-buttoned, and doing their job just as nature intended.
Artist Leanne Pearce invites you to stop and stare. It’s hard not to. The portraits are an arresting mix of precious moments between mother and child. “Mother’s Hands” shows a toddler and baby tandem feeding in the loving clutch of their mum’s arms. “Hannah and Alexander” is an image of a premature brand new baby taking his very first sips of milk in the glare of hospital lights. Each image shares a private moment.
“Boadie and Me” is the tender self-portrait that inspired Leanne to call on fellow mums in the north east of England to ask if she could put their experiences on canvas. Quite unexpectedly, she was overwhelmed with replies. Breastfeeding rates in the north of England are notoriously low, something which Leanne hopes to address by sparking a visual dialogue, one in which breastfeeding is celebrated and accepted as a normal, natural part of our society’s fabric.
“Breastfeed” is showing at the University of Sunderland until May 6th.
“Breastfeed” the artist’s statement
by Leanne Pearce
“Breastfeed” is essentially a celebration of mothers breastfeeding their young.
Breastfeeding is a hot topic in contemporary Western culture. The subject matter is highly charged and people feel passionately about it. The media constantly focus on negative stories that seem to forget the functional, maternal, and nutritionally precious value of breastfeeding. Breasts are sexualized and it is almost deemed abnormal to breastfeed, especially in public. I feel my images will contribute to redressing the balance in favor of the normal act of feeding children with their mother’s milk.
This series evolved from my personal experience as a breastfeeding mother. I have breastfed both my young daughters and although initially my path was a rocky one, breastfeeding has been a precious and irreplaceable experience. While nursing my second daughter, Boadicea, I would peer down at her as she looked up at me and it was this connection that compelled me to create a piece of art. I then began painting other mums and their little ones.
Breastfeeding mothers are not only strong, powerful, nurturing humans, they are also at some points fragile. Each mother and baby partnership has its own unique story, which evolves organically or may indeed be disrupted. Breastfeeding is often not plain sailing and many mothers feel vulnerable. The series attempts to capture loving, tender relationships showing a snapshot of the maternal bond in formation.
Diversity and pride are displayed within these paintings. There are young mothers, mothers feeding older children, and even feeding two children at once. The work acknowledges and challenges our perceptions.
The artwork is not an instruction manual; it is not clean and clinical. The paintings seek to reveal a true reflection of mothers’ experiences. This project aims to show truth and reveal real stories. The visuals are a gentle pathway into conversations around the subject matter.
The “Breastfeed” exhibition is available to hire, the paintings are available to purchase as originals and prints. If you would like to learn more please visit leannepearce.co.uk or email email@example.com