Collective social portrait: toner on silk, audio testimony
McCallum & Tarry
Bearing is a series about the complex stories and experiences of black teen-age mothers in Baltimore. We invited teen-age mothers Danielle H., Shaquanna J., Darnetta J., Hakima M., Tymia M., Jazmine S., and Lakia T. to share their stories with us. We then created a beautiful series of Mother and Child portraits, and rich, raw narrative-driven audio testimonies.
"Bearing is a series of printed silk scrims with photographic portraits of black teenage mothers. Some pregnant, some with their children, these young women share their stories through both proud stances and determined, yet vulnerable, voices as they share visual and verbal testimony about their pregnancies and lives following the birth of their children. Formally, these portraits echo traditional icons of the Madonna and Child in two ways: their glittering, gold backgrounds, and their tender portrayal of mothers with children. The audio component of Bearing provides an opportunity for these young women to express intimate reflections on their experiences. These testimonies and images confront the challenges of peer pressure, sex, pregnancy, and the transition to adulthood. In referencing portraits and icons of the Madonna and Child, Bearing stages a powerful dialogue with the permanent collection on display in the Byzantine, Russian and Ethiopian Galleries at The Walters Art Museum. As suggested by the many different meanings of the series’ title—carrying a child, enduring challenges, and more—Bearing resonates both conceptually and visually. Inspired by altarpieces housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Bearing was originally conceived as a public intervention with the assistance of the Department of Human Services. One particular portrait, Tymia, startles the viewer by revealing her abdominal stretch marks as she stands with her hands firmly placed on her hips in a gesture of defiance. In both image and word, this series serves as a reminder that these young women, and indeed all mothers, regardless of their race, age, social background, and/or marital status, share a common life experience."
"Bearing." In Bearing Witness: Work by Bradley McCallum & Jacqueline Tarry, edited by Jennie Hirsh, 40-41. Baltimore, MD: Maryland Institute College of Art, 2010.
"Bearing" was commissioned by The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.
The artworks were first installed at FUEL House in Philadelphia, PA in 2006. The portraits and audio testimonials were installed at The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore in 2010 as part of McCallum and Tarry's first mid-career solo show, Bearing Witness: Work by Bradley McCallum & Jacqueline Tarry.
Burchfield Penny Center, Buffalo, New York
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD
F.U.E.L House, Philadelphia
The African American Museum in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
Bearing was a commission by The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. The project was generously funded by grants from Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Ford Foundation and City of Philadelphia (Department of Human Services).
Our special thanks goes to teenage mothers who participated in the project: Danielle H., Shaquanna J., Darnetta J., Hakima M., Tymia M., Jazmine S., and Lakia T.
© Bradley McCallum 2022