“When I was 15 I heard through gossip at school of another 15 year old girl who had accidentally fallen pregnant; she had successfully hidden her pregnancy from her family and friends. On the day she went into labour; she took the day off school; delivered the baby herself and kept it hidden alive and well in the bottom draw of her childhood chest of drawers. She managed to keep the existence of the baby secret for several weeks. This story has continued to haunt me throughout my adult life.” Paula Chambers
The exhibition “Bottom Draw”, the title referencing the tradition of dowries, girlhood secrets and teenage pregnancy, explored the complex issues of what it might mean to inhabit a female form. Ready-made objects are altered and adapted to stand as signifiers for the maternal body, the casting in unusual or inappropriate materials suggesting alternate readings of the original objects. There is an ambivalence and an ambiguity to these sculptural objects; baby clothes are knitted painfully from stinging nettle yarn, a bonnet from the electrical wire stripped from a domestic vacuum cleaner, sipper cups cast in porcelain present as commemorative object, memento, souvenir, memorial, a plastic potty has been painstakingly gold leafed and titled ironically ‘Throne’, a pair of hand-knitted children’s mittens are cast in marble and hung with a rusty chain the resembles both the string that runs through a child’s coat to prevent their lose and the bonds of slavery.
These provocative and unnerving works promote in the viewer, a complex response encompassing the cultural, political, social, historical and mythological agendas that inform our current perspective on motherhood and its role in contemporary society. These unnerving sculptures contain multiple layers of meaning; the outcome is subtle and surprising, disturbing and amusing.