Your Body is (still) a Battleground: –Representation of Motherhood in Contemporary Art in Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary.–
Your Body is (still) a Battleground: –Representation of Motherhood in Contemporary Art in Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary.–
Motherhood as social construction is one of the most sensitive parts of being a woman; a concept that was loaded with social expectations and norms, regulations and ideologies throughout history. The themes of motherhood (pregnancy, conception, infertility, artificial insemination, abortion, delivery, nursing, childcare, housework, etc.) are on the fragile scale balancing between private and public spheres. When the private life of women and their decisions about their own bodies become a battleground of ethical and ideological questions, when childbearing turns into the subject of economic and political measures, motherhood as institution1 will be in the forefront of the public sphere. The female body, due to its reproductive ability and fertility, will be subordinated by an oppressive biopolitical power. As the statement „the personal is political” became the motto of feminists, the title of the iconic work by Barbara Kruger Your Body is Battleground2 could be the slogan of the critical discourse revolving around motherhood.
In my essay I am investigating examples of contemporary art that approach the social, political and economic aspects of motherhood from a critical point of view. Instead of the essentialist concept, these works expose the stereotypes, taboos and clichés of motherhood. While examining the artistic representation of motherhood in the patriarchal socio-cultural realm of East-Central Europe, I will highlight different strategies (from performance to the traditional genre of painting) as tools of dismantling the patriarchal system. These approaches will reveal the moving forces of the phallocentric paradigm, the function of biopower and the control over women’s reproductive self-determination. Breaking social taboos about the female body and sexuality (Lenka Klodová, Kateřina Olivová, Fajgerné Dudás Andrea) transgressing gender boundaries (Lenka Klodová), representation of the roma mother (Omara), institutional critique and activism (Mother Artlovers group), deconstruction of national-cultural myth of the ideal mother (Polish Matka Polka) are some of the critical patterns of the contemporary representation of motherhood. The chapter titled Invisible Mothers of the Neo-avant-garde is a thought experiment for the analysis of how the topic of motherhood articulates in the art of three influential Neo-avant-garde artists (Ewa Partum, Zofia Kulik and Alina Szapocznikow) in the 1960s and 1970s.
The social embeddedness of the artistic representation of motherhood is worth examining not only in a regional comparison, but also in a temporal dimension, from the perspective of the post-socialist transition. Social norms connected to motherhood during the state socialism, after the regime change and in the demographic recession of recent years are very diverse. While during the time of the state socialism the idea of the equal, working woman was dominant (but unfulfilled), after the democratic transition in 1990 the traditional womanhood and the cult of home became the norm. Following the 2008 crisis, and as a result of the demographic recession, motherhood was the peak of a woman’s self-realization according to the pro-natalist political rhetoric. Motherhood and the construction of the myth of the good mother was always defined by economic and political interests3.
Mirroring the social and political situation, there are just a few artworks and a few latent instances dealing with motherhood created by women artists born in the times of socialism. After the regime change, and mostly after the 2000s, even more women artists are reflecting on their own motherhood (or childlessness) and integrating the corporeal and identity forming aspects of motherhood into their art. The youngest generation of artists, incorporating the experience of climate crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic in their work, speaks in a completely different tone about the motherhood/parenthood of a new era.
The scope of the present study does not allow for a comprehensive examination of the topic in geographical, historical, or generational terms. This research is a case study dealing with some of the region’s typical phenomena, artists and issues that could be a base of comparative analysis focusing on similarities and differences.
Invisible Mothers of the Neo-avant-garde (Why have there been no great mother-artists in the Neo-avant-garde?)
While the feminist discourse of the 1960s and 1970s distanced itself from the role of the mother, one decade later the feminist artists of the Western world (i.a. Mary Kelly, Hackney Flashers or Catherine Elwes) included the subjectivity of motherhood in their art. Although their main strategy was still the non-representation of the maternal body4. The situation of women in the Eastern Bloc has much in common, despite declarative gender equality proclaimed by the socialist state women were treated as unequal to men in the public and the private sphere as well. However feminist ideas had different approach in individual countries: while feminist discourse in some extent was present in Communist Poland and circulated among some artists and critics5, there was no feminist movement in Czechoslovakia and it was absent in Hungary as well. The Eastern European Neo-avant-garde canon dominated by men tells a lot about the marginal situation of the region’s women artists, in which the mothers were even more invisible. The reproductive and productive (artistic) work was hard to reconcile and housework was usually the task of women and mothers that often led to a break in the career of women artists. These conditions resulted in women artists staying away from artistic work for years or even completely leaving their artistic career even until the present day. The ideal woman of the socialist regime was the patriotic Woman, Mother and Wife, while the type of the Creative Woman did not exist. Katalin Ladik, poet, radical female performer of the Yugoslavian and Hungarian Neo-avant-garde answered the question of how difficult it was to reconcile her artistic career and her role of being a mother and a wife in an interview: Personally, it wasn’t hard for me to reconcile, but it was hard for my husband and for the society to accept that. (…) To this day, I run a household like any traditional housewife, I do everything, and as far as I run from my strength, I also do art. Only other people cannot accept that I am a mother, a wife, a breadwinner and an artist at the same time…. I had to write almost secretly, as if I had to feel ashamed or guilty of dealing not only with my family, but with my own work. When my husband was making art, he closed the door so nobody could disturb him. I don’t think that situation has changed to this day7. The development of Katalin Ladik’s artistic career and the twists and turns of her private life can be interpreted as the perception of the Creative Woman prevailing in the midst of the patriarchal relations of the Neo-avant-garde8.
It was typical that the experiences and issues of motherhood – with a few exceptions – were not, or only latently articulated in the works by women artists in the 1960s and 1970s. In order to live up to the expectations of society and the art scene, this generation of women artists typically divided art and the notion of motherhood. In the following chapter I will describe the various methods of representation of motherhood and its hidden patterns through the works of artists Ewa Partum, Zofia Kulik and Alina Szapocznikow.
A naked woman is strolling the streets of socialist Warsaw, mingling with the crowd walking through the crosswalk, standing in a bookshop full of men and in front of a policewoman, still without clothes. The black and white photo montages depicting unusual scenes, were presented in Ewa Partum’s exhibition titled Self-Identification (1980), in the Mała Galeria in Warsaw. The artist showed up naked at the opening of the show, evoking the montages and demonstrating against the role of the woman in a patriarchal society. Partum completed the artwork with a statement, in which she took the stand against the typical roles (woman, mother, housewife, the representative of a certain profession or community)9 that were forced on (Polish) women. Her naked body can be interpreted as the act leaving behind these roles and as a tool of rebelling against social norms. In one of the photos she appears next to a woman pushing a stroller, in another photo she is standing lonely, but consciously behind a traditional Polish family (mother, father, children). The public space was controlled by the communist authorities, thus physicality, the naked body and sexuality belonged to the private (moreover, to the intimate) sphere. This way private and public spheres are confronted in the photo montages. The confrontation of the individual and the authority is exposed in the scenes where the naked artist is standing in front of a policewoman wearing the uniform and when Partum is showing up in front of the governmental building ruled by male decision makers10.
Self-Identification is one of the most significant artworks of Ewa Partum’s feminist point of view. The feminist issue articulated by this work is against the one-dimensional concept of femininity which in socialism pushed women into the role of wife-mother-housewife. Similarly to the women artists of the Eastern Bloc, motherhood does not appear explicitly in the work of Partum, some exceptions can still be found in her oeuvre. Her own maternal experiences are expressed in her conceptual visual poetry titled Poem by Ewa (with Baby Berenika), 1974. A baby is being breastfeed in the image, and according to the title and the year, we see in a close angle the few months old daughter of the artist during the intimate moment of nursing. Another important work of her in this context is the work Autobiography (1971-1974) aquired by MoMA11. Partum has drawn the last names of men of the cultural elite of the 20th century who influenced the canon such as writers, philosophers and artists. At the end the last names of these influential men written on a cotton sheet formed Partum’s name. The artwork, now a part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is not just the critique of patriarchy and the artistic canon ruled by men, but also a reflection of Partum’s own female position and maternal identity. One of the names was erased and Partum wrote “unknown woman” Berenika Partum, her daughter in the empty space. The visual autobiography of Partum also highlights that she had to raise her daughter in a cultural realm dominated by men, without any paternal support12.
Alina Szapocznikow is a pioneer of the representation of the female body. Her sculptures, objects depicting parts of body cannot be abstracted from her existential experiences, all the tragedies she has been through and her severe illnesses. Although her works follow the traditions of modernist aesthetics, her way of depiction went against the male point of view, questioning the base of phallocentric culture. By representing the suffering, ill, deformed body she confronts the social norms that associate the concepts of beauty, arousal, sexuality and motherhood with femininity. By doing so, Szapocznikow breaks the traditional rules of the representation of the female body. Her work Kruzlowa (Motherhood, 1969) is one of the most shocking pieces in her oeuvre that was created shortly after she was diagnosed with breast cancer13. Her casts of her own and other’s bodies mirror the vulnerable, fragile and perishable nature of the body. The fragmented manner of the works represents the physical and mental traces of trauma14.
In her sculpture Kruzlowa, made for the Pallottines and exhibited in the Polish Church in Paris, Szapocznikow combined a cast of her own breasts with a nursing Madonna15. This work is also a commemoration of her tragic life experience of being childless. The small, wooden sculpture from the 15th century in the church of Kruzlowa is a Madonna portrayal, in which the Hail Mary, full of grace, holds her child Jesus in her hands, while the drapery slowly slips down on her breasts. Szapocznikow placed faces of Madonna reproductions made out of synthetic resin on the casts of her own, “infertile” breasts. The beautiful face is shown distorted, without the infant Jesus. The naked breasts, that are the biological symbols of motherhood will never be able to nurse a baby. As Agata Jakubowska reveals in her analysis, the Kuzlowa is a very personal interpretation of a religious motif. The inner drama of the artist, the impossibility of becoming a mother is expressed16. The subversive nature of the work comes from the sensitivity of the topic; infertility is a marginal, suppressed theme in motherhood. In addition a conventional (Christian) way of representation is appropriated by the artist. This work by Szapocznikow is the first, taboo breaking artwork dedicated to motherhood in the region, regarding its form and content as well.
Activities with Dobromierz, 1972-74 is one of the most radical and exciting works of the Polish Neo-avant-garde as it merges conceptual art and personal content with existential issues. Not so long after their son Maksymilian Dobromierz was born, Zofia Kulik and Przemysław Kwiek (KwieKulik) took ca. 900 photos of their newborn child in which he appears as a subject of their artistic experiments. In most of the images Dobromierz appears with objects placed in geometric order or surrounded by books, cutlery, vegetables and fruits. The couple, who formed an artist duo called KwieKulik in 1970, was interested in the theory of Open Form by Oskar Hansen, mathematical and logical impulses and in their new experience of becoming parents at that time. The forms and methods of creating were influenced by the materials available in their environment, the objects that were ready at hand. The place of their experiments was either their intimate sphere, namely their home: the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom, and sometimes the surrounding streets when they walked with the baby. In the staged compositions the little child appears in an equal status with the objects. Mostly in uncomfortable (laying naked on the floor, in a bucket or a cardboard box), or even dangerous (in the toilet or sink) positions17.
In her essay called Motherhood across the Iron Curtain18 Jaquilin Maudanalyzes Activities with Dobromierz in comparison with Mary Kelly’s iconic work, titled Post-partum Document (1973–1979). She highlights the different social and political context of the two artworks and explains how differently the private and public spheres worked on both sides of the Iron Curtain. The feminists of the Western World acted against the isolation of housework and parenting and generally against pushing women in the private sphere. Thus in the totalitarian regimes, such as in communist Poland, escaping in the private sphere was a form of resistance, as it was the only space that was not controlled or censored by the authorities.
In KwieKulik’s work the confrontation of the two spheres is also present, when they incorporate elements of the outside world (1st of May flag, pieces of ice) collected during their morning walks. At the same time they shed light on the absurdity of political symbols and propaganda. This work can be interpreted as an artistic imprint of Kwiek and Kulik becoming parents. Thus in the series created for several years not the emotional experience of parenting, but rather the rational artistic attitude can be traced. In the staged situations they often abused the child, sometimes they even endangered him by covering the baby with different objects. They symbolically demolished the child. As Kulik stated: I think we were treating him as we were treated by the system, like objects19.
Analyzing the different stages of Kulik’s oeuvre, Tomas Zaluski points out the couple’s different artistic interests and the source of conflicts within their relationship. While Kwiek wanted new activities, Kulik urged to organize, process and present the already existing materials as installations. According to an interview with Zofia Kulik the “sessions’ were done systematically at the same time, with clockwork accuracy, and following Kwiek’s agenda, both Kulik and the child had to adapt to the father’s late waking up20. Their break up and the end of their artistic collaboration in 1987 was fuelled by professional and private, gender related issues and also by Kwiek’s dominance and oppressive attitude21. In the creative process always the ideas of the men were realized, and at the same time, Kulik was subordinated by Kwiek in their private life. These processes led to a step by step emancipation and personal awakening of Zofia Kulik22.
The work Activities with Dobromierz is an outstanding and expressive document of artistic experiment and dissolving life and reality in art. Although it is important to analyze the work from the viewpoint of the female part of the duo, the mother and child as well. Most of the daily chores of parenting (nursing and nurturing) – due to biological reasons – were connected to Kulik. This means they did not participate in the activities with the child the same way – neither as parents nor as artists. The appropriation, endangerment and objectification of Dobromierz and using him as Unknown X raise a number of ethical questions. In this regard the work is not about the representation of motherhood, but rather about the inequalities of male and female roles in the family. It is a manifesto of complicated parent-child relations, in which the patriarchal setting of socialism comes to the surface.
Who is Afraid of motherhood? Breaking taboos.
Motherhood is not the opposite of erotic desire and intellectual maturity! Lenka Klodova
In the group show titled In a Skirt- Sometimes / Art of the 1990s, organized by Pavlina Morganova (Moravian Gallery, Brno 2014)23 fourteen women artists were participating. In the 1990s these artists with their new artistic expression and topics ruled the Czech art scene, almost sweeping off their male colleagues. The curatorial statement generated a fruitful debate, as it states that the 1990s is the first period in Czech art history that can be written without male artists.
As feminism spread throughout Eastern-Europe, the social context of motherhood was thematized in the work of women artists from the end of the 1990s in the Czech art scene. Lenka Klodová is one of the members of this generation, whose work is characterized by sexual content, subversive messages and obscene, pornographic or even explicit content24. Her works about motherhood and pregnancy are based on her own personal experiences as being the mother of three children. Thus these works also contain self-deprecating humor, self-criticism and the mocking of essentialist ideas about traditional gender roles25. In her performative projects she is dealing with the naked body’s presence in public space and she is the initiator and organizer of the event called Festival of Naked Forms26.
In her 2003 action, titled Who is afraid of motherhood? she examined the reactions of people on the naked, pregnant body and the bulging belly, and analyzed how society relates to a situation that changes women physically and mentally as well. The social experiment took place in a forest, where passers-by faced unusual scenes emerging from behind the trees. The pregnant woman – similarly to the male figure of the exhibitionist satire – has shown her belly under her coat. (Referring to the fact that depicting the maternal body is somewhat disturbing among feminists as well). Her artistic strategy is based on exaggeration in order to reveal the topic’s different meaning, its unconsciously realized visual value. Her 2001 photography installation visualizes a fictional pronatalist campaign (Demonstration), in which pregnant women demonstrate with various absurd slogans („Say NO to menstruation” or “To life without menstruation.”) against menstruation, as it would be the main cause of Czech depopulation27. On one hand the demonstration against the biological requirement of pregnancy and the basic manifestation of being a woman is mocking women for “being in a delicate condition”. On the other hand it is also the parody of stereotypes associated with pregnancy and of the propaganda against population decline. Depicting women going into labour as activists (the manifestation of emancipation) confronts the idea that pregnancy is a passive, unconscious period of a woman’s life28. Sex during pregnancy is another taboo that is covered by an experimental pornographic magazine she created especially for women (Ženin, 2005). For her diploma project she explored the visual character of porn magazines made for men, the clichés of depicting women and the history of pornography29. During maternity leave I cut out naked women from adult magazines and I dressed them with clothes made of paper. It was like a combination of an adult (male) game and the innocent children’s role play with dolls30. In this unique publication she reckons stereotypes such as pregnancy is a sexually passive period in a woman’s life or that sex during pregnancy is pervert or dangerous. Instead of the erotic representation of the male body, she illustrated the magazine with anatomical drawings, criticizing the traditions of the representation of the female body31.
In 2001 together with fellow artists she founded the group called Mothers and Fathers – Matky a otcové (Lucie Krejčová, Martin Péč, Marek Rejent)33. Their aim was to present motherhood and fatherhood without sentimentalism, idealization or romanticism34. Their strategy by default is irony and sarcasm and being open about the whole spectrum of emotions connected to parenthood from frustration, love and joy to resignation. There are a lot of instances in contemporary art when an artist’s child is used as a tool or as a material for artistic purposes. This approach is problematic in many ways, regarding the violation of the personal rights of the child or the contemporary phenomena of sharenting35. In their performance at the Kunsthalle in Krems Martin Péč, a male member of the group put the four years old kid of Klodová to sleep on the floor of the gallery. Meanwhile a lullaby was played in the background, sung by the artist-mother (Sleep, 2004). While the artists transformed everyday life into art, parenting and artistic practice, home (private life) and exhibition space (the public and the sphere of art) became equal, the traditional caring roles were reversed. Already during her studies (Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague) Klodová has highlighted the discriminatory and intolerant nature of art institutions and the educational system towards mothers/parents. When she returned from maternity leave she exhibited her children wearing golden dresses (Golden Kids, 1996), locked inside a baby cage as her year-end report. The jury rejected the work presented as a performance as they found it inadequate 3637.
Klodová’s art program, her commitment to female sexuality that denies social expectations, and her “corporeal feminism”38 has found many followers among her students. The social taboos articulated by her in the early 2000s, were not deconstructed even after twenty years. As she stated: It fills me with sadness that the current generation is solving similar issues that were our agenda twenty years ago.
Institutional critique & empowerment of mothers
I think every time a woman breastfeeds in a public space, it’s a kind of activism. (Kateřina Olivová)
Kateřina Olivová created her own, unmistakable style and lifestyle following in the footsteps of Klodova. The most important medium of one of the most unique artists of the Czech scene is her own „amazing large, soft body” 39. In her public performances she provokes the audience with her nudity and showing her curvy body or with her extreme, kitschy, candy-coloured outfits that evoke a glittery-unicorn-rainbow aesthetic. One of the most memorable actions initiated by her was the collective breastfeeding in public spaces (café, museum, shopping mall, bank). The Breastfeeding guerrillas (Kojící guerila) had great resonance: they not just wanted to raise awareness for the discrimination of breastfeeding mothers, but also wanted to change social norms40.
Her activist approach is present in her work as the member of the group Mothers Artlovers that was founded in 2016 by her and fellow artist Darina Alster41. After 3 year of existence they stated their goals in a manifesto, in which they interpret motherhood as a discursive category that makes them able to shed light on preconceptions and injustices of gender roles in society and in the art world, and through which they demand social discussion and change. As they said – We focus on the specific experiences, troubles and needs of mothers that navigate the art industry. We give support to mothers-artists, mothers-curators and mothers-theoreticians and we amplify their voices in the public space. Given our own experience, we are very perceptive of the needs of other groups who find themselves in a similar manner temporarily or continuously overlooked and excluded. Through communal effort we change the (art) world around us42.
In 2019 the performative presentation of their demands was held in front of the contemporary art gallery called Rudolfinum in Prague. The public performance was realized in the framework of Festival Fotograf, and the artists marched to the building with their children and strollers, wearing burgundy clothes and holding banners with various slogans on them43. The setting evoked Klodova’s photography installation titled Demonstration but could be seen as a re-enactment of a revolutionary painting. Slogans twisting political rhetoric ( #matka #umeni #rodina) and phrases supporting the empowerment of women/mothers/artist-mothers (umeni nastroj promeny; materska revolucje) were written on the banners. The largest banner, which says ‘art is greater than motherhood’ and ‘art is less than motherhood’ (UMENI<MATERSTVI; UMENI > MATERSTVI), was held by male members of the group. Besides reproductions of famous artworks (Spider by Louise Bourgeois, Duchamp’s pissoir stolen from Elsa von Freytag), on the strollers there were their own artworks (Red Woman44 by Darina Alster, the Plus-Size Mermaid of Katerina Olivová45). All of these works mediated an important feminist message. By choosing Rudolfinum as the location of the action, they expressed an open institutional critique against the gallery’s exhibition policy that prefers men artists and ignores women artists and artist-mothers46. With their action the group stood up against the mechanisms that ignore artist-, curator- and theorist-mothers, and criticized the function of art institutions that discriminates against mothers, parents and children. Primarily Mother Artlovers is a supporting community, but the group is often invited to events, exhibitions, biennials where they organize children friendly installations and workshops, discussions on feminist topics, and deal with the revolutionary potentials of motherhood474849.
Tradition & Emancipation before the paragraph
Andrea Fajgerné Dudás is one of the artists who are dealing with the marginal topics of being a woman in the Hungarian art scene. After her marriage, according to the tradition in Hungary, she took her husband’s last name (Fajger)50. In the contemporary art scene the name Fajgerné sounds dissonant, and evokes a series of preconceptions that affirm the male dominant model. Her choice of name is a social critique and a radical artistic gesture at the same time. In doing so her private life is an integral part of her artistic practice that includes both tradition and emancipation. Although she plays traditional female roles, is married, raises children, does housework, she also breaks the patriarchal setting with her intimate or tabooed subjects. In her series of paintings entitled Married Life she depicts a new type of relationship in which the husband and the wife are equal partners. While the woman is painting, the man is running the household. When the husband is the breadwinner, the wife is taking care of the needs of the family. The one – the woman or the man – who does the invisible (unpaid) labour is always naked51.
Fajgerné realizes body positive performances and creates oil on canvas paintings where her body is a central motif. She depicts her body in her performances and paintings in its bare reality: naked, fat and wrinkled. She visualizes her décolleté and naked breasts, but also her and her husband’s genitals in her paintings. By doing so she elevates the image of a woman (and a man) reduced to her biological functions in the tradition of representation. In her performative projects she uses her body as a canvas, or as a projection surface that is suitable for mediating artistic messages. She stands up for self-acceptance with her tight-fitting and nude costumes, and similar to Katerina Olivová, she confronts the traditions of the representation of the female body. Her series of paintings, entitled Annunciation Fajgerné is dealing with infertility and artificial insemination5253. Although a lot of women are affected, these topics are absent from Hungarian contemporary art, and are still a taboo in social discourse. She reinterprets the iconography of annunciation: Archangel Gabriel is the doctor who does the procedure and the rays of light come from the surgical lightning. She depicted insemination and the tabooed male infertility treatment (testicular biopsy) in an objective way. Male infertility is not aligned with the image of men created by themselves and the society. This means women are blamed for unsuccessful conception and their body is affected by hormonal treatment and its side effects. Besides the paintings the series includes an installation: the bed, covered with sheet, is the symbolic stage of sexual intercourse, conception and delivery. The piece recalls the emblematic work of staging the intimate sphere, the unmade bed (My Bed) by Tracey Emin. Fajgerné enthusiastically documented almost all phases of getting pregnant: the bed sheet is coated by packages of hormonal medications and ovulation tests. The sheets of leaflets for use and side effects form the silhouette of a female body54.
A couple of months later in her performance titled Patience is a Virtue, she celebrated the success of getting pregnant. At the opening reception of her show at acb Gallery, she got her hair – full of roses, growing since her marriage – cut by the audience55. A wig was made of the cut hair, which is for her the symbol of the efforts she has made to conceive, the symbol of waiting and patience. With the ritual of cutting her hair a new period of her life has begun; the long awaited motherhood has started56. Her series of paintings about breastfeeding uncovers the social expectations that surround nursing. Her series Galaktotrophousa is based on the Byzantine representation of the Virgin breastfeeding the infant Jesus. She sometimes depicts herself as a modern Madonna, sometimes as Shiva with multiple arms who does productive and reproductive work simultaneously, and breastfeeding is just one of her many tasks (cooking, painting, reading, writing/administrative tasks)57.
Her painting entitled Come to my bosom destroys the myth of ‘a good mother breastfeeds’. This expectation makes women feel stressed about their performance and reduces motherhood to the question of whether a woman has breast milk or not. She reinterprets the famous painting (Gabrielle d’Estrées and One of Her Sisters, 1592) from the Louvre’s collection in which Fajgerné recalls a drastic method that was often used at child health clinics: the sensitive breast of women after their delivery was pinched to check if their milk production had started58.
Fajgerné depicts scenes where the breastfeeding mother’s sexual fantasy and breastfeeding have an erotic connotation. She associates breastfeeding with oral sex and intercourse, referring to Renate Bertlmann’s Zartliche Berühungen. She openly talks about the failure of breastfeeding through her works: the paintings entitled Breastfeeding Substitute are about breasts that are not producing milk and about the struggle with various tools that help or imitate breastfeeding (Supplemental Nursing System).
She was dealing with her second pregnancy in a performance and a virtual exhibition in which she was digging deeper in self-disclosure and breaking taboos. In her paintings of her naked body the signs of aging, stretch marks and cellulite, that remained from her last pregnancy, are visible. She presented these works alongside her nude that she painted six years before. The natural healing method and ritual – that accompanied her second, complicated pregnancy – the hot bath made of camomile was a new motif in her work. This time her performance was not in front of an audience, but a camera: in her Camomile-performance59, she was talking about the struggles of the second fertility treatment. She explained thoroughly the gynecologic examinations, the hormone therapy, the producing (or not producing) of eggs and her physical and mental feelings. During this suggestive monologue she was braiding her hair for her child to be born. As a part of the performance she invited the virtual guests for a camomile tea, in which she puts a pregnancy test strip. Disgusting the audience with bodily fluids, hair and nails is a returning motif in her work, playing with Kristeva’s concept called abject. Urine and the pregnancy test in it, menstruation, bloody underwear all mean the unsuccessful conception and the loss of hope in the life of the woman longing for a child. The naturalistic representation of beauty tricks and talking openly about intimate topics are therapeutic tools for Fajgerné to combat failure.
The subversive character of her art is not just because she focuses on marginal topics and discusses them thoroughly. Thus she constantly provokes the traditions of the representation of the female body in art history and in mass media involving her own (plus-size) body in her works. The radicality of Fajgerné’s practice can be grasped in the way she talks about and how she emancipates taboo topics. Instead of anonymity, she reveals herself with her face, her body without fears and adopting social roles. She exposes her private sphere to the public with an awareness of problems that is typical for radical feminists. Thus her feminism is different from the methods of activist feminists, as pointed out by Erzsébet Tatai60, hers is subjectively interpreted, hybrid feminism. She deconstructs the traditional housewife-wife-mother role triad and then reinterprets it as an emancipated, self-conscious woman.
The identity of the Roma mother as a subject of double marginalisation
The Gypsy Mother Deserves a Crown! (Omara)
Motherhood is represented with a unique, social criticism in the work of Omara (1945-2020), a Roma painter, who was considered as a naive artist for a long time. Today she is an internationally acclaimed feminist woman artist, whose career demonstrates well what it means to live as a member of a minority group in Hungary and how a Roma woman can prevail in the elitist sphere of the art scene61.
Omara’s (Mara Oláh) work can be understood considering the tragic events of her life and her illnesses62. Even the start of the career is telling, as she began to paint at age 43 as therapy after recovering from a serious illness. Her artistic practice (including her paintings, performances, public appearances and speeches) is honest, intimidatingly outspoken and characterized by sarcastic humour. In her expressive paintings she depicted her life full of hardships, her struggles as a Roma, a woman, a single mother and as a human being living in poverty. While she gave voice to the discrimination against herself, she talked about the fate of Roma people and in the name of the whole Roma minority. She told about her multiple disadvantages in a narrative, humorous and ironic way through the texts she wrote on her paintings. Her social critique reveals the biased thinking of society at large, the systemic racism and indignity embedded in the society. Tímea Junghaus described her as the “cultural fighter of the Roma emancipation”, and analyzed her oeuvre in the framework of postcolonial theory63. The paintings she created with the favourite colour of her daughter belong to the most important period of her oeuvre, to the so called Blue Period. She also painted hundreds of portraits of her daughter who grew up during this time. These are the self-expressions of a mother who loves her child with all her heart and who would do and sacrifice everything for her child. The private life (her illness, marriage and divorce) of her beloved daughter became a theme of her paintings, in which she unfolded her family issues and conflicts.
Physicality, sexuality and taboos related to motherhood such as delivery, nursing, toilet training are represented in their raw reality and commented with seemingly primitive, provocative sentences (These breasts became world famous because they fed the most beautiful baby in the world!, or Please poop nicely, we don’t have water to wash the nappy!)6465.
These ironical words can be read as everyday sexism, social inequalities, poverty and stereotypes related to Roma people. She took the stand against the prude upbringing of Roma people, in which physical contact was shameful and sexuality was a sin. As a little girl she never got any sex education, her mother handled menstruation as a taboo. The first time she got her period she blamed herself, she thought she had done something bad and she was punished for it. She associated her illnesses in her adulthood (endometriosis, cervical cancer) with this childhood trauma. Painting is for her the way she processes trauma and her experiences she faced as a Roma woman, it is a form of therapy for her. (She even painted her own delivery, in which she is sitting in an armchair and showing her baby to the midwife (My one and only precious Diamond, God fulfilled my wish, 1967).
As sociologist Mária Neményi pointed out, the whole image of Roma people is related to the Roma mothers as they give birth to the many Roma children who generate several problems for the society at large. The Roma mother and the pregnant Roma woman are determined by their bodies in two ways. The pregnant Roma woman is reduced to her biological functions by the society, in addition, is stigmatized because of her skin color. Born to be a woman and with a darker skin colour are biological determinations that are extended to the whole personality by the society. These two factors form special preconceptions in people that can lead to generalization, rejection and aversion. The most well known stereotype about Roma people is connected to fertility: they have a lot of children, they cannot control themselves, they give birth too often and at a young age. Roma women are considered as sensual and erotic.
This stereotype is exaggerated in one of the most important paintings of her Blue Period, entitled Motherhood, in which she appears with thick, wavy hair. Her skin colour is highlighted by the white of her eye and her seductive look. The infant in her hand looks much older than her age, like a mature Roma girl66.
Omara often showed herself in her works through the perception of the majority, from the viewpoint of the society at large, mirroring their stereotypical thinking. At the same time, it is also obvious how these preconceptions, built into her own self-image, have a positive, identity-forming power and the behavioral patterns of Roma people are appreciated compared to the majority group. Her work These breasts became world famous because they fed the most beautiful baby in the world (2017) and the related photographic sketches with texts are about this process. In her self-portrait, she captured her breasts protruding from her bra, with the following text written with a pen: So here are the provocative breasts of Omara. They irritated those who envy me so much that I became so angry, I did not only paint, but also photographed them by myself in the mirror, because there was no one I could ask to take a picture of them. So why are they beautiful? Because I nursed the most beautiful girl in the world with them!!!! They are not fake tits! The bored whores still think I am a slut. Go figure it out! You little whores, who don’t want to breastfeed, but don’t even give birth!67.
A brutal description of society, the insecurity and financial vulnerability of the Roma minority unfolds in her work entitled Covetousness, in which the poor Roma and the wealthy (scrouching) majority society are confronted. In the symmetrically composed painting, a group of women in blue dresses symbolizes the exploited gypsies, the other group in bright red dress, raising their hands to the sky, depicts the rebellious Gypsy mothers who have awakened to self-awareness. (I believe that the next generation of Gypsy mothers will do this!) In the center of the composition there is a greedy “Hungarian” with a huge piece of bread in his hand (How much more bread do you need, you can’t even eat it, you can’t take anything to the grave. And you still tell us gypsies that we are robbers?). Existential angst, the rage of the richer part of the society against the poorer, is often associated with racial and gender prejudices. Omara points out precisely this double exclusion, this double minority identity: she does not simply depict the opposition of Gypsies and “peasants” (i.e., non-Gypsies), but makes Roma mothers the protagonists of the picture.
In the context of the representation of motherhood, one of her key works shows a typical image of Gypsy life, a populous family grouped around a table with the following text in the image: I made this painting in honor of Gypsy mothers!!! Because they would castrate them for their many births, although they deserve a crown!!! Although the peasant just wants so many loving family members to cook for when he gets old. They are my role models. … So this is why women all over the world, who only use their body for sex, envy the Gypsy mother. (My beautiful mother gave birth to nine children, my grandmother had nineteen children at the age of 53, and she died at the age of 63.) The picture shows Omara’s populous kinship, the peaceful coexistence of several generations. The central figure of the image is aunt Maris painted in strong yellow colour, with a crown on her head, while uncle Pityu appears at the edge of the image, as a supporting character. As it can be seen in the scenes, in traditional Oláh Gypsy families, the mother is the heart and soul of the community, she determines the daily tasks, the finances, the upbringing of the children.
Omara wrote her self-published autobiography68 in honor of Gypsy mothers, in which she speaks with enormous vehemence to his imaginary “white” reader, lists the criminal records of Hungarian majority society through pages, and confronts systemically coded discrimination and prejudices. In addition, she avenges on behalf of all Gypsy mothers, gives a speech defending motherhood and childrearing, and performs the symbolic coronation of the Gypsy mother.
As Tímea Junghaus pointed out, language, verbal and textual expression play a significant role in Omara’s work. Omara’s language is in itself productive, performative and constitutive69, through which she formulates herself, her Roma identity and her existence as a Roma woman, artist and mother. With her paintings, she not only laid the foundations of Roma self-representation, but her work is also an important statement of contemporary representation of motherhood.
Deconstruction of the Myth of the Polish Mother (Matka Polka)
According to Julia Kristeva, in Western societies the role of religion is significant in constructing the discourse on motherhood. In her essay entitled Stabat Mater Kristeva points out how Christianity affected the representation of motherhood, and in European culture the figure of Mary, as a privileged object, provides the most refined symbolic construct70 of motherhood. In Poland, where the Catholic church has always had a strong social and political influence, this tradition of worldview and representation has greatly contributed to the formation of the myth of the Polish Mother (Matka Polka). A number of studies deal with the formation and deconstruction of this cultural construct combining Catholic and national ideologies, and in contemporary fine arts we find many examples of the appropriation and the subversion of the myth71.
In short, the myth of the Polish Mother is closely connected with the centuries-long struggle for Polish independence and the hardships the country has suffered throughout history. Its origins can be traced back to the 13th century, when the Virgin Mother appeared as the protector of the country. At the end of the 18th century, after the third partition of Poland, women and mothers became carriers, successors and guarantors of the survival of the Polish nation. When men fought in war, took part in uprisings, or sat in prison, women bore all the burden of the family. The woman, struggling for the survival of the homeland, was associated with the figure of the Christian Mater Dolorosa (Painful Mother), who shares the suffering of her Son (husbands, fathers and sons fighting for the country, and symbolically the whole country).
Persistence, heroic struggle, and self-sacrifice have been deeply ingrained in the fabric of society over the centuries, and the heroic woman syndrome, always given a new charge with socio-political changes, continues to this day in Catholic-conservative discourse. With the change of regime, the patriotic charge lost its significance, the emphasis shifted to the essentialization of motherhood in post-communist Poland. According to this, the fulfillment of female existence can only be imagined in motherhood, and the mother is a strong pillar of the heterosexual family, according to the Catholic-Conservative view. During the period of demographic crisis, the myth of the Polish mother gained new strength, and through her ability to reproduce, she is again assumed to be the guarantor of the nation’s survival. Analyzing contemporary art examples, Izabela Kowalczyk points out72 that the myth of the Polish Mother at all times is a patriarchal construction with nothing to do with the flesh-and-blood woman and the biology side of motherhood, much more the secular equivalent of an asexual, spotless ideal, the Virgin Mary73. This ideal image, a passive image of women squeezed into the narrow space of the axis of home and family, is deconstructed in Polish fine arts among others by Marta Deskur, Anna Baumgart, Monika Zielinska, Katarzyna Górna, Elżbieta Jabłońska.
The most frequently analyzed work in this context is Elżbieta Jabłońska’s iconic series entitled Home Games – Supermother (2002), one of the first critical reflections on the archetype of the Polish Mother.The artist wears superhero costumes associated with men, evoking the iconography of Christian Pieta, holding her own little boy in her hands. Pop culture and Christian tradition, the holy and the profane, the man endowed with superpowers, and the passive woman exiled to her home are confronted. An important context of the work is that it appeared not only within the closed walls of the system of art institutions, but also in public spaces and on billboards in several Polish cities. Supermother is Matka Polka’s ironic commentary deprived of religious connotations, as well as subverting the self-sacrificing maternal vocation, mother-son relationship, and traditional male roles. In the superhero figures of popular culture (Batman, Superman, Spider Man), the primary qualities (strength, courage) and behavior patterns (saver, protector) of male domination can be found: the men who save the world and defeat evil. Boys usually learn masculine patterns from infancy through toys for boys, (superhero) tales, clothes, and in many cases within the family (Home Games), just like little girls adopt female roles. The Polish Mother is a figure who subordinates herself to the interests of the family, protects her children and moves in the space of the home (especially the kitchen). Jabłońska’s work projects these three roles on top of each other when, dressed as a superhero, she confronts femininity with the masculine worldview.
Nearly twenty years after the Supermatka series was made, female superheroes appeared on the posters of the Women’s Strike (Strajk Kobiet) initiative designed by Jarek Kubicki. It appropriates the visuality of the Solidarity (Solidarność) campaign poster for the 1989 democratic elections, but the macho character of Gary Cooper from the famous western High Noon74 was replaced by iconic female figures from American action movies Kill Bill, Terminator, Alien and Tomb Rider75. As Piotrowski argues, the imagery of the 1989 poster represents the masculine character of the democratic political transformation, moreover, is one of the main characteristics of the post-communist societies76. The wave of protests over the tightening of the Polish abortion law was clearly the fight for women and mothers, which could mark the beginning of a new era, at least at the level of visual representation77. Women’s bodies are a political battleground again and not only in contemporary Poland.
Viktoria Popovics is an art historian and curator based in Budapest. She has been working at the Ludwig Museum – Museum for Contemporary Art Budapest since 2014, where she contributed to several large-scale exhibitions focusing on Central and Eastern European art. (Ludwig Goes Pop – The East Side Story, Permanent Revolution. Ukrainian Art Today, Iparterv 50+, etc.) She has participated in research projects and curatorial residencies in Berlin, Vienna, Warsaw, Prague and Ljubljana. Since 2012 she is PhD fellow of the Eötvös Loránd University Doctoral Program and from 2020 a member of the Hungarian Section of AICA. Her research interests include Central and Eastern European art, Hungarian neo-avant-garde art and critical theories.
1According to Adrienne Rich’s seminal book Of Women Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (1976) – motherhood as a patriarchal institution is a male-defined site of oppression. 2The work was made as a protest against the U.S. Abortion Act, which was decided by a legislature consisting of exclusively men. 3For more information on the socio-political background of the topic in Hungarian, see: Társadalmi reprodukció. Az élet újrateremtése a kapitalizmusban,24. Issue of Fordulat, Budapest, 2018(2). 4Rosemary Betterton: Maternal Embarrassment: Feminist Art and Maternal Affects, [in:] “Studies in the Maternal”, 2 (1) 2010, see: www.mamsie.bbk.ac.uk. On the relationship of feminist art and motherhood see more: Andrea Liss: Feminist Art and the Maternal, University of Minnesota Press, 2009. 5Agata Jakubowska, The Circulation of Feminist Ideas in Communist Poland, [in:] “Globalizing East European Art Histories: Past and Present”, 2018. 6Zora Rusinová: The Totalitarian Period and Latent Feminism, [in:] “Praesens: Central European Contemporary Art Review 2” (4), p. 5–12. 7Vera Bálind, Tracing the Subversive Femininities in the Socialist Yugoslavia: An Analysis of Katalin Ladik's Poetry and Performances of the 1970s, MA Thesis, Central European University, Budapest, 2011. 8Emese Kürti: Screaming Hole - Poetry, Sound and Action as Intermedia Practice in the Work of Katalin LADIK, acb Research Lab, 2017, p. 180. 9Ewa Partum, Warsaw, 1980: These photographs inform about the existence of a particular relation between the actual state of things and what is represented in them. The determinants of social life, the set of patterns regulating a functioning of an individual within a defined social and cultural structure – in this case of a woman - where the notion of role (being a woman, a mother, a housewife, a representative of a specific profession, a representative of the local community) is understood as a certain aggregation of roles, a model fabricated by the tradition as a certain complex operating on the social consciousness – the model of a woman – a creation of the patriarchal society, functioning in the form of social norms, which in an effective way disadvantage woman, with a semblances of respecting her. The action recorded as my own intervention does not exhaust this problem: it only raises it. 10Image: Ewa Patrum, Self-Identification, 1980, exhibition, Mała Gallery, Warsaw. Courtesy of the artist. 11Ewa Partum, Autobiography, 1971 –74, MoMA, see: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/194394. 12The father of his child, Endre Tót, an influential figure of the Hungarian Neo-avant-garde and international conceptual art, left Hungary in 1978 and has lived in Cologne since 1980. 13Alina Szapocznikow, archive, 1968 – 69, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, see: https://artmuseum.pl/pl/archiwum/archiwum-aliny-szapocznikow/1823 14Alina Szapocznikow, Kruzlowa, 1969, collection of Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, see: https://artmuseum.pl/pl/archiwum/archiwum-aliny-szapocznikow/493/4990 15The Virgin Mary with the Infant Christ (The Madonna of Kruzlowa), ca.1410, collection of The National Museum, Krakow. 16Agata Jakubowska, Krużlowa and “The Head of Christ” by Alina Szapocznikowm [in:] "Sacrum et Decorum. Materiały i studia z historii sztuki sakralnej", 2013, p.124 This is also evidenced by an excerpt from a letter to her husband about how she will be able to maintain mental balance in her life if no one will call her mother and can never play with a little soft, breast milk -smelling body. The artist became infertile due to an illness, her son was adopted by her and her husband, but there was always a desire to give life to a child. „I however am very sad, because Prof. Sowinski told me that there is almost no chance of being a mother after such an illness (….). What will ’grow’ out of me. And given this excess of ’sensibilité’ that I possess, how do I maintain my equilibrium, when no one will ever call me ’mom’, and I will never be able to play with a soft little body smelling of milk? “ 17Image: KwieKulik, Activities with Dobromierz, 1972 – 74, photograph, series. Courtesy of the artists and Kulik-KwieKulik Foundation. 18Jacquin Maud, Motherhood across the Iron Curtain: on Zofia Kulik and Mary Kelly, Kulik-KwieKulik Foundation, see: http://kulikzofia.pl/en/archiwum/jacquin-maud-motherhood-across-the-iron-curtain-on-zofia-kulik-and-mary-kelly/ 19Agata Jakubowska, M/Paternal meanings in the neo-avant-garde (Günter Brus, KwieKulik), [in:] “The Aesthetics of Matter. Modernism, the Avant-Garde and Material Exchange”, 2013. Agata Jakubowska reads the work from the perspective of socialist-paternialism, according to which the fatherly communist state takes care of (manipulates, controls) all its children. 20Tomasz Załuski, Anatomia KwieKulik. Z Zofią Kulik i Przemysławem Kwiekiem rozmawia Tomasz Załuski [The Anatomy of KwieKulik, A Conversation with Zofia Kulik and Przemysław Kwiek], KwieKulik, Zofia Kulik & Przemysław Kwiek, 539-540. 21Joanna Turowicz, The rebellion of a neo-avant-garde artist, conversation with Zofia Kulik, 2005, see: http://kulikzofia.pl/en/archiwum/bunt-neoawangardowej-artystki/ 22Tomasz Załuski, How to Live and Work with Two Artistic Biographies. Zofia Kulik's Archival Drive. [in:] A. Jakubowska (ed.), "Zofia Kulik. Methodology, My Love", Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, 2019. 23Pavlína Morganová, In a Skirt – Sometimes Art of the 1990s, 2015, exhibition, curator Pavlína Morganová, G HMP, Prague, see: https://www.ghmp.cz/en/exhibitions/in-a-skirt-sometimes-art-of-the-1990s/ 24Lenka Klodová, Who’s Afraid of Motherhood?, 2003 [in:] Umelec Magazine, 2008 (1) 25Lenka Klodová, I Was Terribly Embarrassed, But Only That First Time, [in:] Zuzana Štefková (ed.), “Testimonies. In a Female Voice”, 2012, see:http://testimonies.umprum.cz/en/lenka-klodova.html 26Festival of Naked Forms (FNAF) is a mono-thematic multi-genre festival with a predictable and yet inconceivable subject matter. The title alone reveals the aim of the various events and perhaps liberates us from being overly fixated on the topic. We can overcome our shame at home and then experience the other meanings that nudity may have in different contexts and interpretations. 27Lenka Klodová, Who’s Afraid of Motherhood?, 2003, see: http://www.divus.cc/london/en/article/who-s-afraid-of-motherhood. Courtesy of the artist. 28Image: Lenka Klodová, Tento měsíc menstruuji [This Month I’m Menstruating], 2004, exhibition, Art Factory Gallery, Prague. 28bImage: Lenka Klodová, Tento měsíc menstruuji [This Month I’m Menstruating], 2004, exhibition, Art Factory Gallery, Prague. 29In communist Czechoslovakia, porn was perceived as a sign of freedom. 30Magdalena Havlíková, interview with Lenka Klodová, 2008, [in:] IDNES.cz, see: https://www.idnes.cz/onadnes/vztahy/umelkyne-lenka-klodova-prukopnice-porna-pro-zeny.A080128_120100_ona_ony_jup 31The cover shows her husband’s hairy torso, his genitals covered. 33Mothers and Fathers, see: https://www.artlist.cz/skupiny/matky-a-otcove-224/ 34Zuzana Štefková, Mothers and Fathers In (and Out) of a Gallery: Art Practice and Parenthood, 2014, Arta. 35Sharenting – posting photos of the child on social media. The phrase is combining words: sharing and parenting. 36When I came back from my second maternity leave, I had to present my final work for the semester in winter, and as I was having trouble with it, I ended up exhibiting my own children. All I did was sew them these little gold outfits. Matouš just sat there, and Boženka had this baby fence in the studio, because by then she could crawl on all fours, and was learning to stand. 37Image: Lenka Klodová, Golden Kids, 1996. Courtesy of the artist. 37bImage: Lenka Klodová, Golden Kids, 1996. Courtesy of the artist. 38Elizabeth Grosz, Volatile Bodies: Toward A Corporeal Feminism, [in:] Bloomington, (eds.) Indiana University Press, 1994. 39Kateřina Olivová, statement, see: https://www.works.io/katerina-olivova/texts 40Image: Kateřina Olivová, Breastfeeding guerrillas, 2013, performance, Brno, Czech Republic. Courtesy of the artist. 41Most active theorist members and supporters are Zuzana Štefková (Artwall gallery), Karina Kottová (SJCH), Hana Janecková (Display gallery), Tereza Stejskalová (Tranzit.cz). 42Darina Alster , manifesto, 2020, see: http://www.digitalfeminism.net/2020x/artworks/fi/day6.php 43Image: Darina Alster, Mothers Artlovers, 2019, performance, Rudolfinum, Prague. Courtesy of the artist. 44Image: Darina Alster, Red Woman, 2017, performance, see: https://darinaalster.org/2020/04/09/451/. Courtesy of theartist. 45Image: Katerina Olivová, Plus-size Mermaid, 2020, photography, see: https://www.lidovky.cz/relax/design/zena-jako-prirodni-sila-fotografka-bet-orten-slavi-uspech-se-svou-serii-fotek.A200211_133031_ln-bydleni_ape 46Thanks to Darina Alster for all her help and, especially, for the online interview about the group’s activities. 47Image: Mothers Artlovers, 2019, performance, Rudolfinum, Prague, see: https://matterof.art/program/budoucnoust-mothers. Courtesy of the artist. 48Image: Mothers Artlovers, 2019, leaflet, Rudolfinum, Prague, see: https://matterof.art/program/budoucnoust-mothers. Courtesy of the artist. 49Image: Mothers Artlovers, 2019, leaflet, Rudolfinum, Prague, see: https://matterof.art/program/budoucnoust-mothers. Courtesy of the artist. 50Following the patriarchal habit that is still present, taking Mrs. as the marital name (in Hungarian language it is the -né syllable glued to the name of the man) means the woman belongs to the man who is the owner of his wife. Surprisingly, in Hungary, this type of naming is characteristic not only of women belonging to the older generation, but also of (conservative) women in their thirties and forties. 51Image: Andrea Fajgerné Dudás, Married Life, painting series. Courtesy of the artist. 52Image: Andrea Fajgerné Dudás, Annunciation, 2014, painting series. Courtesy of the artist. 53Image: Andrea Fajgerné Dudás, Annunciation, 2014, painting series. Courtesy of the artist. 54Andrea Fajgerné Dudás, Annunciation, 2014, painting series, see: https://fajgerne.com/index.php/works/34-sadudaerdna/portfolio/92-annunciation 55Andrea Fajgerné Dudás about her work: In New York, I saw a self-portrait of Frida Kahlo with her hair cut off, which had a big impact on me, and I vowed to grow my hair until I became a mother. Then I didn’t think it wasn’t going to be an easy thing! My hair had never been as long as it was now, more than doubled. After many disappointments, miscarriages and unsuccessful implants, I waited 29 months patiently and Archangel Gabriel knocked on my door! 56Image: Andrea Fajgerné Dudás, Patience is a Virtue, 2014, performance. Courtesy of the artist. 57Image: Andrea Fajgerné Dudás, Galaktotrophousa, 2016, painting series. Courtesy of the artist. 58Image: Andrea Fajgerné Dudás, Come to my bosom, 2016, painting series. Courtesy of the artist. 59Andrea Fajgerné Dudás, Andrea Julia, Kamilla, 2013, performance, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSdxBN_KYZk 60Erzsébet Tatai, Feminista festészet /Feminist Painting, [in:] “sadudaerdna. Fajgerné Dudás Andrea Júlia 2009-2015”, (ed.) Balázs Kata, Budapest, 2015, p.5– 13 61In 2004, she first appeared in the contemporary art scene as an artist at the exhibition titled Hidden Holocaust. In 2007, her work was presented at the 52nd Venice Biennale in the First Roma Pavilion, and then at the Gender Check exhibition in 2009 in the context of international women art. 62At the age of 23 she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, at the age of 37 she lost one of her eyes due to an illness. 63Tímea Junghaus, The epistemic dissatisfaction. The decolonized reading of the Blue Period of Omara, [in:] “Ars Hungarica”, 2013 (39), p. 307. 64Image: Omara Mara Oláh, Poo in the chamber pot, Everybody Needs Art Collection, photo Weber Áron. Courtesy of the artist. 65Image: Omara Mara Oláh, THESE BREASTS BECAME FAMOUS CAUSE IT FED THE WORLDS MOST BEAUTIFUL AND BEST ONE, ENA Collection, photo Weber Áron. Courtesy of the artist. 66Image: Omara Mara Oláh, Motherhood, 2007, “Blue Series”, Everybody Needs Art Collection, photo Weber Áron. Courtesy of the artist. 67Image: Omara Mara Oláh, Omaras provocative breasts, Everybody Needs Art Collection, photo Weber Áron. Courtesy of the artist. 68Omara Mara Oláh, The Gypsy Mother Seserves a Crown, 2006, private edition. Thanks to Péter Bencze, the custodian of Omara's legacy, for making the manuscript available to me and for drawing my attention to the works of the oeuvre that thematize motherhood. 69Tímea Junghaus, The epistemic dissatisfaction. The decolonized reading of the Blue Period of Omara, [in:] “Ars Hungarica”, 2013 (39), p. 309. 70Julia Kristeva, Stabat Mater, [in:] “Poetics Today 6”, issue: The Female Body in Western Culture: Semiotic Perspectives, 1985, p. 133-152. 71Elżbieta Korolczuk, I've Got It From My Mother: Exploring the Figure of the Mother in Contemporary Polish Art, [in:] “Reconciling Art and Mothering”, (eds.) In Buller, Rachel Epp, Routledge, 2016. 72Izabela Kowalczyk, Visualizing the Mythical Polish Mother, [in:] “Gender Check: A Reader – Art and Theory in Eastern Europe”, ed. Bojana Pejić , 2007, p. 213-219. 73Izabela Kowalczyk, Feminist art in Poland Today, [in:] n.paradoxa – “International Feminist Art Journal”, 1999 (11). 74Tomasz Sarnecki, Solidarność (Solidarity), 1989, poster, collection MoMA, see: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/139589 75Image: Jarek Kubicki, posters for Woman’s Strike, 2020 – 2021. Courtesy of the artist. 76Piotr Piotrowski, Gender after the Fall of the Wall, [in:] “Art and Democracy”, p. 247. 77Editors of Block Magazine, Women’s rights are human rights, [in:] BLOK MAGAZINe, see: http://blokmagazine.com/en-pl-womens-rights-are-human-rights/