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Whitney Bradshaw

SPE Member since 2017
Member Chapter: Midwest

Slow Release 2016 - Present

Slow Release, is a document of a fleeting moment of major transition, one which ends as our daughters, in the act of becoming and forming their own identities, prepare to move out into the world on their own. I chose to embark on this project when my daughter, Ruby, turned 13 and I was 46. That year seemed to mark the beginning of one of the most pivotal periods in our relationship and in our own separate and personal development. We found ourselves simultaneously traveling through adolescence and peri-menopause; both major biological shifts heavily weighted and prescribed by society as notoriously difficult. So fraught are they that even before we have fully experienced them we fear and perhaps even dread them. I wanted to document this journey, in part to be able to hold onto us, our togetherness and in part to picture the complicated nature of mother-daughter relationships, while questioning the negative socially constructed narrative. The resulting images of Ruby and our community of mothers and daughters of the same age, push against the dominant narrative.

The series is an extended family portrait of the strong and diverse group of mothers and daughters closest to us. As a single mother, I have always surrounded myself with an incredible community of women that provide Ruby and me with friendship, inspiration, and support. Some of us were pregnant together. We have eaten many meals together, taken turns hosting sleepovers, and picking up or dropping off our children for various activities. We call on each other when faced with the uncertainty of how to proceed as parents during trying times. We are each other's supporters, teachers, champions, and dear friends. Together we wade through this extraordinarily loving, beautiful, mysterious, and extremely challenging territory, knowing things will be different for all of us on the other side of this seismic shift.

I set out, with Ruby, to make three portraits at each of the families' homes; including one of the mother/s and daughter/s, another of Ruby and the teen/s, and a picture of Ruby alone. By approaching this project from three distinct vantage points I aim to complicate the series allowing the viewer to witness several relationships and watch Ruby, the constant, grow over time.

The work is about mother-daughter relationships, aging, and gender but it is also about identity, race, representation, and power. My daughter is bi-racial therefore I think about race and the power of representation every day, consciously working to create positive and strong images that counter negative media messaging. Finally, I hope to interject these powerful and diverse portraits into the history of art, where the gatekeepers, (most often white males) have so often refuted the relevance of representation of mothers and daughters, characterizing our experiences as sentimental and trite. The complexity of personhood and the way in which portraiture helps us come to know ourselves is evident in this body of work and has compelled me to create it.

Ruby, 2016

Ruby and Ruby (the Gems), 2017

Katy, Laurie, and Augusta, 2017

Hannah and Ruby, 2017

Dujuanne and Hannah, 2017

Ruby, 2017

Liv and Ruby, 2018

Erika and Sidney, 2017

Ann and Olivia, 2018

Sidney and Ruby, 2017

Ruby, 2018

Naia and Ruby, 2017

Carol and Oli, 2017

Ruby, 2018

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