Melanie Stegemann

Mütter - Mothers

A residency in Moscow inspired me to the series ‚Mothers’ and further on ‚More Mothers’.
Due to about 4500 chronologically displayed icons in the Tretjakow gallery I was able to trace the depiction of Maria with Jesus from the last 1000 years. What I found was how graphic and illustrated Maria was back in the days. She seemed like a symbol, an ideal, unapproachable for human kind. Over time though her facial features became softer, the pale skin more lively, the face more personal. She became more and more human up to the point of a moment of identification for me. I now saw a mother with her child.
What surprised me was that within the process of humanisation something important was left out- the smile as an impression of joy, which in my opinion is one of the most human characteristics of all. I just couldn’t believe that Maria, despite her knowledge of her son’s destiny, didn’t seem to have had a happy moment with her child and I liked the thought of transforming this visual heaviness with a digital smile. It also worried me to think about the impact an icon like this could have when it operates as a role model. After the first five mothers I found in Russia it was a natural consequence for me to look at art history as well. I instantly came across more ‘sad’ mothers and I worked my way through it. This is how about 90 more smiling mothers generated within the 2014 series ‚More Mothers’