Situated slightly (and welcomingly) outside the environs of the Edinburgh university sphere, St Margaret’s house – a warren of offices, gallery space, and affordable studios – is nothing but an asset to the Meadowbank area, and a space where artistic ventures can be realised.
For a short run from 28 September to 12 October, one such venture was re : birth, an exploration of motherhood and the space (or lack thereof) provided by the art world for artists who also happen to be mothers, presenting works by members of the local collective Spilt Milk.
Borne out of a desire for a candid and direct depiction of motherhood in its entirety, the huge range of mediums displayed across the 40 or so works in re : birth were linked by their honesty in the eyes of the smiley Spilt Milk founder, Lauren McLaughlin.
Showing me a zine she had collated with Stepping Stones (a north Edinburgh based charity for young single parents) in which the young mums had been given a chance for their complex feelings towards motherhood to be noted, I was struck by how empowering it felt that all the pieces included had a differing stance, but that none were held back by prescribed rights and wrongs. They were true and uncensored expressions of the artists’ varying perspectives on their experience as mothers.
Every piece in the re : birth exhibition had its place, and it felt as if the artists (all mothers themselves) had been gifted with their own individual place to speak in a much-needed discussion. As McLaughlin noted, the honesty of all the works – from an umbilical cord constructed out of vacuum cleaner lint (We used to be so much closer by Laura Ajayi), to the more traditional but vibrant portraits – more than fulfilled the ethos of the Spilt Milk collective to ‘actively promote the work of artists who are mothers allowing their experiences to become an equal voice in contemporary art discourse’. The exhibition created a space for the authentic expression of maternity to be present amid the bustling art scene of Edinburgh.
The inclusion of aspects like the aforementioned zine created with Stepping Stones and the intimate collage work of intermedia produced by Freddie Thomas (FredBloggs_Awesome1), as well as the presence of a small work station with plenty of crayons and material for children to engage with, meant the exhibition catered to a variety, not a minority of people. This is just one of the important aspects of a show for which Spilt Milk should be very proud to have produced.
Image: Rosie Barry