Lisa Sorgini (b. 1980, Australian) is a photographic artist that has found her own maternal experience to be central to the themes in her work.
In Behind Glass, Sorgini captures a layered exploration of motherhood as shown during the months of the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic, as unprecedented stay-at-home measures swept across Australia and the World. It’s an opus that stands as both a creative commentary and an important cultural record.
Born of the pandemic, shooting began for the series as the first stay-at-home orders came into force in Australia. Making portraits of those in her immediate community, It’s a body of work motivated by a need to make visible the unseen role of parenting during such isolation and one that evokes a spectrum of deep tenderness, tedium, quietude, love, frustration, fear, and despair. These works present the light and darkness of motherhood during these extended periods of lockdown; the use of soft lighting and tonal contrast bringing this metaphor to visual life.
Each work is framed by a window in the home, a practice that feels poignant given the circumstances of mandated isolation where no contact was allowed. It’s a process that suspends each subject within a liminal space of transference and adaptation, one that mothers endure but children are protected from. Babies are seen clinging to their mothers. Tiny hands tug at clothing and skin. Each image, a delicate assemblage of flesh, unposed, set against the backdrop of quiet familiarity. There’s tenderness, but also an omnipresent claustrophobia and intensity.
Dewy faces and subdued tonality lends some works the appearance of a baroque portrait. It’s a disarming technique that adds to the body of work’s transcendence and timeless narrative. One mother looks out from the pane – seen for a moment in a time they were only just beginning to understand, her expression almost indecipherable. Behind glass, mother and child appear like living and breathing masterpieces – divine comedies of domesticity.
Whilst informing of a particular time, Behind Glass also speaks more broadly of the existing maternal experience. Its most blatant subtext is that of motherhood as contextualized within the modern western milieu; where women lie at the core of an intense inner world whilst continuing to remain begrudgingly detached from the outer. Yet central to this story is also the concept of hope and connective awareness. Mothers joined through a collective experience. Through this work, the unseen is seen.
The book contains a foreword by writer and curator Federica Chiocchetti (b. 1983, Italian).