book - behind glass  


Behind Glass

Behind Glass, offers a layered exploration of motherhood as shown during the months of the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic, as unprecedented stay-at-home measures swept across Australia and the World. It stands as both a creative commentary and an important cultural record.

Born of the pandemic, shooting began for the series as the first stay-at-home orders came into force in Australia. Making portraits of those in her immediate community, It’s a body of work motivated by a need to make visible the unseen role of parenting during such isolation and one that evokes a spectrum of deep tenderness, tedium, quietude, love, frustration, fear, and despair. These works present the light and darkness of motherhood during these extended periods of lockdown; the use of soft lighting and tonal contrast bringing this metaphor to visual life.

Each work is framed by a window in the home, a practice that feels poignant given the circumstances of mandated isolation where no contact was allowed. It’s a process that suspends each subject within a liminal space of transference and adaptation, one that mothers endure but children are protected from. Babies are seen clinging to their mothers. Tiny hands tug at clothing and skin. Each image, a delicate assemblage of flesh, unposed, set against the backdrop of quiet familiarity. There’s tenderness, but also an omnipresent claustrophobia and intensity.

Dewy faces and subdued tonality lends some works the appearance of a baroque portrait. It’s a disarming technique that adds to the body of work’s transcendence and timeless narrative. One mother looks out from the pane – seen for a moment in a time they were only just beginning to understand, her expression almost indecipherable. Behind glass, mother and child appear like living and breathing masterpieces – divine comedies of domesticity. 

Whilst informing of a particular time, Behind Glass also speaks more broadly of the  maternal experience. Its most blatant subtext is that of motherhood as contextualised within the modern western milieu; where women lie at the core of an intense inner world whilst continuing to remain begrudgingly detached from the outer and societal constructs and expectations remain vastly at odds with lived experiences of women and mothers.

Yet central to this story is also the concept of hope and connective awareness. Mothers joined through a collective experience. Through this work, the unseen is seen.

“Though many artists grappled with making photographs in the time of Coronavirus-induced quarantine, Sorgini’s poignant series was the most successful. Her portraits of mothers and children together as viewed through windows into their homes brilliantly capture the dissonance of an era defined by both the alienating isolation of social distance and the inescapable intensity of familial intimacy. Rendered in muted tones with soft light, these moments of fleshy physical closeness are marked by a combination of tenderness, claustrophobia, and ennui.”

Susan Thompson, Associate Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

© Copyright 2021 Lisa Sorgini