Motherhood Vanitas Symbolism

WHITE – the absence of all colour OR sum of all colour (contradictions of motherhood) – represents both birth and death, rites of passage and initiation. Also whitewashing something to pretend it didn’t exist – as we do with the negative aspects of motherhood.

Time: Sand Timer, Candles, Dandelion Seeds, Bubbles
Stuffed Toy: ripped and being mended, childhood, maternal repair.
Needle & Thread – To find harmony or strike a balance between conflicting forces, and interests. 
Needles – They sew, stitch, attach, mend, and create.  They are strong (some are even unbending) and in the right hands, they are a tool that can mend the tapestry of mind, emotion, body and life.
Balloon: (letting go, childhood)
Bubbles: time passing, childhood
Dandelion Seed Flowers: time passing, childhood, childhood offerings.
Eggs: Fertility and Creation. Source of Life. A universal symbol of promise and potential. Broken egg shells – easily hurt/sensitive or broken eggs represent unfulfilled potential and disappointment.
Empty shells: have been used up to their potential. Empty egg shells are a fantastic omen. They have been transformed into delicious pancakes or a chicken, whatever! Empty, used egg shells are symbols of transformation, and potential fulfilled. They are a reminder to use all your resources to the best of your ability!
Challice with spilt milk: Challice symbol of the womb. Milk reminder of breastfeeding. The saying There’s no point in crying over spilt milk.
Baby’s Breath Flowers: everlasting love, new babies & innocence
Scales: Judgement.
Vase of Daisies: Childhood Offering
Candles: Time one burnt down more than the other
Bread: Nourishment/spiritual nourishment
Cotton wool: wrapping them in cotton wool
Milk Teeth: – time passing, loss of innocence, development.
Paracetamol: Pain of motherhood
Queen Chess Piece: Toppled over (most powerful piece on the board, but fragile and knocked off her game)
White birthday cake with candles? – celebration and passing of time
Knife: betrayal, deception, martyrdom

Decaying House Plants

In a previous module I used house plants as a metaphor for motherhood, nature is placed in a domestic setting. Following the module, the plant I had used started to die and I couldn’t manage to revive it. I produced a sequence of images which I called Motherhood in Decay.

This week I noticed another plant that I used for the series also had a section of it that was dying. So I photographed it too

Cultivating Mould and Decay

After setting up the Vanitas image I had a desire to let the whole scene rot and wilt and capture the decay at various stages.

There’s something about becoming a mother that shifts your own mortality into focus. You become acutely aware of your own mortality and how much or little of it you may have left. It’s a painful realisation that one day you will leave your child and they will have to live their life without you.

I became aware of the pairings of life and death, beauty and decay, joy and sadness. They all exist side by side and become magnified in motherhood. So many seemingly contradictory emotions can be experienced in any given moment. We can feel both grief and gratitude and joy in respect of an experience or memory.

When I created the video trailer for this module I happened to choose clips which were all about reversing ageing and turning back time. I hadn’t consciously chosen that, I was simply looking for beauty products we as women are sold. But ageing and the passing of time are what keep cropping back up this module even though it wasn’t my intended starting place.

So I decided to try and create decay on my images using Petri dishes and agar jelly. We’ve made some samples. We’ve used our breath on some, my daughter left her fingerprints in others. We also varied the prints, some were on acetate, some on watercolour paper and others on canvas. I quite like how the ink from the prints dispersed in some of the images more than others. Some continued to disperse to the point of the image no longer being recognisable whilst others held the image much better. It seems to be the temperature of the mixture that made a difference and once it cooled and set slightly it interfered with the print less.

My favourite results so far are the acetate prints where I had the ink facing down so the jelly solution hit the back of the acetate and didn’t interfere as much with the inks. You can see through both sides of the petri dish so it’ll be interesting to get some mould and decay growing on those.

Flesh/Skin – Monster Mother Shoots

I am still planning to shoot images of me and my daughter. I’m thinking I may set a slow shutter speed on an interval timer or merge interval timed images to show her at speed and in motion and myself sat stationary and still to emphasise this difference in time. Her life moving forward so quickly as mine slows down.

Oliver Richon

The following two artists have worked with mould and petri dishes…


Hélène Cixous

Research Process Embodied Knowlegde

Presentation and sequence – how can the elements sit together.