The Drawers - Donna Cleary   Commentary written by Julie Oakes

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Donna Cleary

At one time, children meant the continuance of the tribe. Birth was a natural process but so also was death and the survival rate was not as secure as in the western world in modern times. Fertility figures were a common artefacts, a necessary prayer or good luck omen towards the continuance of life. In some cultures, these artefacts were worshiped, even elevated to a God or Goddess like status. When male, the figurines or statues would often sport erect phalluses. When female, it was not the genitalia that was glorified, as much as the state of gestation. Pregnant women with milk filled breasts symbolized bounty, prosperity and good fortune.

Modern western culture is proportionately bereft of fertility figures. In fact, with the population still growing, it could be accused of holding a somewhat jaded view of childbirth. The pressures of modern living have necessitated double income families and the ‘job’ of rearing the child can be farmed out to care facilities. Family time has, sadly, been shortened and the term ‘family values’ has an undertone of suspect political positioning that is quite often adverse to the natural concept of family.
Who then, is culturally elevating the pregnant women? As ever – artists. Both male or female, once hit with the indelibly magical circumstance, they celebrate their engagement in the process with as much fascination as if they were the first ones to ever produce a baby. The birth of a child is indeed marvellous and the anticipation of the marvel is held within the physical aspect of the pregnant body. Pregnant women still garner the emotional response of compassion, their swelling bellies being patted, rubbed and listened to.

Always a clear symbol of the bounteous and beautiful, the pregnant body, nude, is glorified in Donna Cleary’s drawings and monoprints. To omit, in an exhibition that celebrates women, imagery pertaining to the solely exclusive female state of pregnancy, would be close to a slight to the gender. Women, capable of being ‘with child’, are hence the ones who know best how to visually speak of the experience. Donna Cleary represents the natural phenomena well.

Julie Oakes Copyright © 2008 Headbones Gallery