The remarkable body of paintings called breastfeed by Leanne Pearce enables us a rare glimpse of an otherwise common event, feeding. Openly celebratory these close-up encounters are the representation of breastfeeding and breastfed bodies. Pearce’s slightly larger than life representations of mothers and their babies appear to engulf the viewer within a corporeal and emotional entwining of maternal nurturing, where hands and gaze hold sway. Yes, there are breasts - but sometimes barely. Yet there are hands and holding where this holding and feeding can be felt at the intersection of caring and caressing. The sensual-ness of it is striking.
Is this the threat that brings complaints and shame to endure upon the body of the mother and her feeding baby? What is it about their consensuality that is unbearable? This seems to be the question painted before us.
For the first time this body of work is exhibited in a major gallery context where events and conversations, dialogues and discordances can be seen and heard alongside the work; where academics, mothers, artists, feminists, lactivists, and their supporters can engage.
When I first met with Leanne Pearce, I knew these paintings would be the beginning of an immense curatorial undertaking. The work has demanded and become the catalyst for a series of seven related events which have become known as Feeds. These feeds are intended to hold open spaces, within, and to extend beyond the gallery - and even beyond the paintings themselves - to enable contributors and collaborators on the maternal to voice what is needed to be said and felt.
Curator of breastfeed| Leanne Pearce and associated Feeds at Leyden Gallery