(Susan’s work from a previous exhibition, in her studio at Malvern.)

I’ve got a photo of a piece from Susan Reddrop’s exhibition “Urge”, due to open next Wednesday.  I was so so tempted to publish it here…but I dont want to steal her thunder. I visited her this week as a prelude to her exhibition.  I’ve been thinking about mothers and babies and child birth ever since. I’ve also thought a lot about my experience of all things motherly and womanly, while celebrating 21 years of my son’s life over Easter.

My experiences of having babies were at once fraught and wondrous.  In my memories, the wondrous always outweighs the fraught.  It has to be said though that I was naive and led by that naivity to a fairly unaware experience of childbirth.  I was also one of those unfortunate mothers who had major complications, with a six week stay in hospital with the birth of my first child.  It wasn’t till I talked to the heavily pregnant Susan Reddrop and saw her work, that I realised the point that I had missed in childbirth.  Women are at the height of their womanly powers during pregnancy, childbirth and mothering.  Delivering new life to the world is a pretty unbeatable achievement. As I write this there’s a nagging feminist view rattling around in my head that says women mustn’t be defined by their ability for motherhood.  How did that happen?  Why have I been programmed to question that which is so intrinsically part of a woman’s potential?  On the way home from the visit with Susan, I talked about feminism with my colleague (interestingly a man…an enlightened man I hasten to add). We each wondered why feminism had faltered after the heady days of Germaine Greer and bra burning.  Lots of possibilities entered the conversation to explain this, but later I hypothesized that implicit in those early days of feminism was a denial of the very essence of being a woman…her reproductive power. No wonder feminism stalled.  Even as I write that I hear the howls and screams from dyed-in-the-wool feminists for whom it’s all about the career and the following of other deeply held passions. All I can say to the screamers is lets celebrate all of what being a woman is about…rounded hips, breasts, reproductive baby carrying artists, doctors, politicians, public speakers, thinkers,carers, academics, world leaders….I could go on forever.

Susan Reddrop’s exhibition “Urge”, due to open next Wednesday at MARS Gallery, is already doing it’s work.  It created the motivation for my colleague and I to think about women and the power of women at the moment of childbirth.  I love being challenged in that way and coming out from the challenge having had some ah ha moments. Susan models women’s ability to maintain that power alongside following her career as a sculptor.  Her baby is due a week after the exhibition opens…she is still working, making final preparations for the exhibition and caring for her first child. It’s true that women have been doing that for ever in a variety of contexts, the difference here is that we are reminded to celebrate and honour that very strength and ability through her exhibition.  “Urge” will showcase glass sculptures of women in the midst of childbirth.  Strong, beautiful, womanly bodies giving birth. It’s not for the faint hearted but then neither is childbirth or anything else worth doing for that matter.  In addition to the sculptures, photographs of Susan, naked and pregnant in gorgeous sculptural poses, at the equally gorgeous Montsalvat, will be on display.  What a celebration!

I’ll be at the opening next week and will include photos of the work thereafter.  If you can’t wait for the post, I recommend a visit to MARS Gallery in Port Melbourne to see this amazing, provocative, celebratory exhibition for yourself.