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September 28, 2021

Assisted-conception families in focus

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Deborah Kelly, After Madonna della Sedia, 2012, (detail from The Miracles series), pigment ink on Canson infinity rag paper in an antique wooden tondo frame. Photomontage from photography by Alex Wisser. Image couretsy of the artist and Gallery Barry Keldoulis
Deborah Kelly, After Madonna della Sedia, 2012 (detail from The Miracles series), pigment ink on Canson infinity rag paper in an antique wooden tondo frame. Photomontage from photography by Alex Wisser. Image couretsy of the artist and Gallery Barry Keldoulis

One of Tweed Regional Gallery’s latest exhibitions features an installation of photographic portraits of families with children conceived through various Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART).

The portraits in The Miracles, by artist Deborah Kelly, feature all types of parent: single parents, same sex and transgender couples, opposite sex couples, families who are recipients of egg or sperm donation, gamete donors, families made through surrogacy and other child-rearing arrangements involving extended kinships and familial innovations made possible by ART.

But adding a historical note to the exhibition, the portraits are modelled on Renaissance era Holy Family paintings of disputed provenance, attribution or authenticity.

Source subjects include simple and extended holy families with saints and angels, Madonnas with child, St Anne and the Virgin, Mary and Elizabeth, Annunciations, Visitations, the infant St John, child saints and angels.

Gallery director Susi Muddiman said that in her research for the installation, Kelly was particularly interested in paintings which had been the subject of scholars’ debate and whose status has been subject to sustained authoritative interrogation.

‘All the portraits are in circular format, referring to the domestic-devotional tradition of the Tondo,’ Ms Muddiman said.

The frames are restored antiques of solid wood, further binding the work to its theological lineage.’

The artist travelled with photographer and lighting designer Alex Wisser to Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane, conducting elaborate performance portrait sessions with participating families.

The resulting works have created analogies to the landscapes, poses and luminous solemnity of the historical sacred canon.

The subjects of the portraits are dressed in contemporary clothes in a palette of renaissance colours, but they are not costume dramas or historical re-enactments. The artist refers to the subjects as performing, as well as being.

Kelly says The Miracles is ‘at once an argument and a prayer’.

The Miracles will be on display at Tweed Regional Gallery from 5 December till 8 February.

The associate curator, contemporary Australian art at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Bree Richards, will officially open The Miracles on Friday 19 December at 6pm (for 6.30pm) and everyone is welcome to attend.

 


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