Take 5 with Artist-in-Residence Catherine LeComte

February 12, 2024 by Sarah

Meet The Umbrella’s newest Artist-in-Residence, Catherine LeComte, a Boston-based visual artist who explores familial relationships, motherhood, and personal experiences through photography, mixed media, and installation. During her residency, LeComte plans to utilize photography and a gel image transfer process, crafting a series of glass works that delve into the themes of motherhood.

Watch for announcements of her winter artist talk on February 8 at 6pm

We were able to “take 5” with Catherine earlier this week to talk about her work and hopes for her time at The Umbrella.

How did you develop a love for photography and what other media do you work in?

Photography has remained my central artistic medium, followed by my interest in mixed media, video, and alternative photographic processes. My passion for photography started during my teenage years, leading me to pursue a BFA and, most recently, an MFA in Photography. Throughout my academic journey, I explored the realm of alternative photographic processes, and in my first year of graduate school, I was honored with the 2022 Anderson Ranch Graduate Scholarship, affording me the opportunity to attend a workshop at the center. Under the guidance of the exceptional and inspiring instructor Benjamin Timpson, I learned the gel image transfer process, which has become a focal method in my current work.

During the second year of my graduate studies, I expanded my artistic horizons by delving into video production, sculpture, sewing through imagery, and exploring diverse applications for text. The MFA Photography program and faculty at Massachusetts College of Art and Design played a transformative role in shaping my current artistic practice.

Who has influenced your work, and how have they contributed to shaping your photographic style?

My sources of inspiration span various art forms, including photography and mixed media. Artists like Carmen Winant, Stacy Arezou Mehrfar, Lisa Sorgini, Annie Wang, and Madeline Donahue deeply influence my work. Additionally, the practices of artists such as Carrie Mae Weems, Jenny Holtzer, Allison Croney Moses, and Jess T. Dugan inspire me.

Observing fellow artists create work on motherhood or function as practicing artist parents motivates me to contribute to this collective effort, aiming to bring about positive changes in the art industry.

Tell us about the work you are creating during your residency?

I'm currently working on several interconnected projects, all revolving around the theme of motherhood. My main focus involves printing images of my son and myself on transparency film and transferring them to glass. When displayed in lines, these glass pieces create a unique image that becomes apparent when viewed head-on. I have also been collecting data on my son since his birth—details like feeding times, sleeping patterns, diaper changes, encapsulating the tangible load of parenthood. I'm planning to weave this data into my work somehow.

In a separate project, I'm delving into the brain patterns of postpartum women facing anxiety and depression, collecting imagery and conducting research. Recent studies highlight alterations in both gray and white matter, contributing to cognitive challenges after childbirth. These changes in crucial brain components, essential for mental functions, memory, emotions, and movement, result in volume reduction in specific areas among first-time mothers during and after pregnancy, persisting for at least two years postpartum. On a personal note, having experienced postpartum depression and anxiety, I feel a strong urge to create artwork on this subject to bring attention to the insufficient research being conducted in these areas.

Since the birth of your child, you have cultivated a serious focus on motherhood.  What do you seek to convey and how does your approach contribute to what you are trying to express?

Since becoming a mother, my artistic focus has shifted significantly towards exploring the multifaceted experiences of motherhood. I aim to convey the historical challenges and biases faced by women artists who became mothers, shedding light on societal norms, gender roles, and institutional barriers that have restricted women's engagement in the arts. Through my work, I strive to emphasize the importance of recognizing and addressing these issues within the contemporary art industry.

Historically, women faced limitations in accessing formal art education, and motherhood often disrupted their studies or curtailed resources for artistic training. Gender norms compelled women to prioritize motherhood and caregiving over careers, presenting a formidable challenge for women artists striving to balance both roles. The predominantly male-centric art institutions and communities often lacked support for women with familial responsibilities, impeding their networking opportunities and recognition. Motherhood frequently led to the undervaluation of women's artistic achievements, relegating their work to the realm of domestic hobbies rather than acknowledging them as substantial contributions. The experience of motherhood brought forth discrimination and stereotypes, casting it as a hindrance to artistic commitment and productivity, thereby influencing gallery representation and critical reception.

My artistic approach involves delving into the intersection of motherhood and art, drawing inspiration from my personal experiences and those of women artists who have faced similar challenges. By incorporating elements of my journey as a mother into my artistic expression, I aim to contribute to a broader cultural conversation on the significance of motherhood in the art world. I believe that this theme deserves equal recognition and respect, challenging historical biases and fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment for artist mothers and parents.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Yes! I'm excited to share that I recently curated an exhibition, titled “Matresence,” focusing on themes of motherhood. It's scheduled to run from June 1st to July 14th of this year at MassArt x SoWa Gallery in Boston, with the opening reception set for Friday, June 7th. The artists featured in this exhibition utilize a variety of mediums to convey the profound emotions and inherent transformations associated with Matrescence, drawing from their personal experiences in motherhood. Artists taking part in the exhibition hail from locations spanning the Greater Boston area, New York, and even extending to the West Coast. Included in the exhibition is former Artist-in-Residence at the Umbrella Arts, Jasmine Chen. Matresence recognizes the multifaceted nature of the maternal experience, emphasizing the significance of this life transition.

I strongly believe in fostering a sense of community among mother and parent artists, and sharing resources and opportunities are crucial for bringing about the necessary changes in our sector of the industry.

Learn more about Catherine

  • Recommended Podcast
  • Catherine's Virtual Residency
  • Current Favorite Books
    • How Not to Exclude Artist Mothers (and other parents) by Hettie Judah
    • The Baby on the Fire Escape: Creativity, Motherhood, and the Mind-Baby Problem by Julie Phillips
    • Designing Motherhood: Things that Make and Break Our Births by Michelle Millar Fisher (Author), Amber Winick (Author), & Alexandra Lange (Foreword)

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