April Terra Livingston’s new sculpture Motherwork stands as an iron-strong reminder of the endurance of women, and that it really does “take a village.” Celebrating the vital role of midwifery today and in history – termed “motherwork” by scholar Patricia Hill Collins – the cast iron sculpture is one of three new works by Livingston commissioned for the Mobile Medical Museum in Mobile, Ala.
Eight pairs of life-size hands, cast from the hands of real midwives and obstetric nurses, clasp together in a circle with a central opening, both protective and in the act of assisting birth, symbolizing the collective effort it takes to bring new life into the world and sustain it. The artistic work itself is also collective. Motherwork is one of three sculptures by Livingston (MFA 2011) that were cast by an all-woman iron pour crew at the Sculpture Trails Outdoor Museum in Indiana last summer.
Motherwork is installed in the Mobile Medical Museum’s Robert Thrower Medicinal Garden, along with Livingston’s portrait busts of the Poarch Creek midwife and herbalist Bessie McGhee and Dr. James A. Franklin, Sr., one of Mobile’s earliest African American physicians.
The three cast iron works are the centerpiece of the museum’s exhibit, Dreaming at Dawn: African Americans and Health Care, 1865-1945, that tells the story of African American medical practitioners in Mobile during the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras. The exhibit will be on view in the Mary Elizabeth and Charles Bernard Rodning Gallery at the museum through July 2019. For information about the exhibition, visit https://www.mobilemedicalmuseum.org/.
The hands of Motherwork could be Livingston’s own. The three sculptures are the most recent of her works commemorating some of Alabama’s lesser known history. In 2017, Livingston cast the bust of Cudjoe Lewis, a survivor of the slave ship Clotilda and a founder of Africa Town, for Union Baptist Church in Mobile (see The Loupe, spring 2017).
For more information about the UA Department of Art and Art History and its programs, visit our website: https://art.ua.edu/academics/or contact the department at (205) 348-5967.