As our culture grew heavily influenced by formula companies though, and the publicly breastfeeding mother became considered almost pornographic, the image of the once venerated nursing mother slipped away.
With the advent of social media, the breastfeeding mother in all her forms has reemerged as fierce and beautiful as ever.
Chair of the Arkansas Breastfeeding Coalition Lucy Towbin, MSW, LCSW, IBCLC initiated The Art of Breastfeeding Contest in an effort to support local artists and to promote images of breastfeeding in public, she says. The artwork was ultimately auctioned at the 2017 Arkansas Breastfeeding Symposium; proceeds to benefit the coalition.
Towbin and organizers required submitted artwork to portray breastfeeding in a positive light and convey subjects in a recognizable manner in a public place or other real-life situation that might actually be encountered by a mom and baby today (e.g. in a park, restaurant, or store).
Garbo Hearne, owner of Hearne Galleries, Little Rock and Barry Blinderman, Director of University Galleries, Normal, Illinois judged the artwork of five artist entries.
Stephanie Meadows’ Our Strength Lies Within took first place.
“I was so excited,” Meadows exclaims. “I squealed out an ‘Oh My Gosh! I won!’ I couldn’t believe it. It was a wonderful feeling knowing those moms were represented in such a positive way.”
Meadows nursed her children for a total of three and a half years, and says she regrets not participating in a photo session to document “the tears of defeat and… the tears of victory” as she describes her personal breastfeeding journey. As a gift to other mothers and to capture “how strong and amazing our bodies are,” Meadows hosted a free photo session. They met at a local park and “showed the strength within.”
“Entering the contest was just another way for me to help promote a wonderful thing,” Meadows says.
Towbin explains that not all artists are as enthusiastic about donating their work.
There is a growing resentment among artists who feel as if their work is almost expected to be donated, which might be why contest submissions were relatively low, Towbin says.
The five submission received ample attention at the Symposium though, where 140 attendees marveled at the work.
An individual who works at the health department as a WIC breastfeeding coordinator bought one the pieces and plans to display it at work, Towbin reported on Facebook.
Towbin and her colleagues plan to host the contest again thanks to the interest at the event. Hearne and the Director of Drawing and Painting at the Arkansas Arts Center have agreed to offer guidance to the coalition for the next contest.