The art of motherhood

Shira Richter’s photo exhibition ‘Invisible Invaluables’ explores the essence of seeing the mundane as a marvel.

March 2, 2011 22:41
4 minute read.
Art by Shira Richter

Richter 311. (photo credit: Shira Richter)


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Creating life is rarely considered creative; and being a mother is rarely valued as a real job.

However, Shira Richter – a mother of twins, as well as a multidisciplinary artist – is opening an art exhibition exposing the beauty and the value of the art of motherhood, which Richter refers to as “invisible work.”

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“Bringing up small children is a lot of work, but it’s unpaid work and it’s invisible in the global economy,” Richter explains. “On the other hand, there’s this whole culture around adoring the mother, but in reality there is no funding for this amazing mother – she is so valuable, that she’s invaluable.”

Richter’s art exhibition, entitled “Invisible Invaluables,” brings this work into focus with a series of photographs that the artist took during her daily tasks as a mother. Baby bottles, pacifiers, nipples, pots and pans, a dirty bathtub and other seemingly mundane items are transformed in these photographs into mesmerizing objects that look more like jewels or precious metals. The Artist’s House in Tel Aviv, which is hosting this exhibition from March 3 to the 29, gives the viewer the feeling of walking into Aladdin’s cave and uncovering a rare treasure.

“I am trying to create an exquisite feeling of a very valuable setting,” Richter says.

She describes her use of different mediums in the exhibition, including art and film. “With my artistic means, I am trying to create an experience of all the senses.

I am trying to tempt and seduce my viewers to try and convince them to think of this work of bringing up small children as something that is to be remunerated all over the world. In order to generate change, you have to engage as many senses as possible.”

Hadara Scheflan Katzav, the curator of the exhibition, says that the art used in this exhibition is not the art of beauty but the art of uncovering beauty and finding the spark of creativity in the most ordinary items.

“All the objects that are being used in the daily caretaking of children, which we certainly do not see as art, Richter elevates them to a level of art,” Scheflan Katzav describes.

As the exhibition is the opening event of Women’s Month in Tel Aviv, the curator further states that Richter’s art is political in its nature and that this exhibition makes a blunt feminist statement. It focuses on the new feminism, which Scheflan Katzav calls maternal feminism, explaining that the old feminism was one of girls, and the new is a feminism of mothers. Both the curator and the artist are self-proclaimed feminists, and both try to find the mother’s experience in a utilitarian reality, where the mother is forced to put the other’s needs before her own.

“Motherhood is important as a function,” Scheflan Katzav says. “It involves sacrifices for the benefit of the other. But motherhood is not important for itself. What Shira Richter and I do is find the voice of the mother – what she sees, experiences, feels, needs, wants, and this doesn’t interest anyone because our culture teaches that the mother has to be responsive to the needs of the other.”

The search for women’s voices and experiences has been Richter’s main artistic focus since her earlier work in film and photography.

“I’m more of a reactive kind of artist. I react to the place I live in. I react to the images that are surrounding me most of the time. And if I can’t find my experience in the world in an artistic expression, that’s usually the time when I go out to try and create something.”

One example of Richter’s reactive art is her previous photography project named “Mother, Daughter and Holy Spirit,” which she created when she was pregnant.

“I was surrounded by sweet, lovely pictures of bliss and love, and pink and light blue, which weren’t even near the scope of the feelings and experiences that were going on inside me, inside my body, inside my mind – every part of your body is usually kidnapped by this experience [of being pregnant], and it didn’t show itself anywhere in any kind of image or film around me, and I was totally shocked.”

Richter felt that popular culture often belittles or makes fun of pregnancy and it doesn’t respect the scope of creation of life. “I was thinking if our culture treats life like this, no wonder we have so many wars.”

“Mother, Daughter and Holy Spirit” features photographs of Richter’s abdomen skin following the birth of her twins. She describes these photos as “landscapes of this new territory that you travel to when you become a mother.”

“Invisible Invaluables” is the continuation of this journey and. as Richter states, this is a journey that “you don’t really come back from.”

March 3 - 29. For details, call (03) 524-6685 or go to

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