The sun melted into the horizon while she pumped the milk from her breasts. Jazz music filled her car.
She thought, “This is my life.”
This was her bizarre, beautiful reality, pumping milk for her baby while they were apart.
“I’m everywhere and nowhere at the same time,” Gonçalves comments on the nature of her freelance work.
With no designated space to pump her milk, Gonçalves has pumped in closets and unfamiliar offices, but most often in her vehicle.
As she watched the sunset, she wondered where other women, tied to the hustle, pump milk for their babies. She wondered how women make it work in a landscape where mothers are expected to provide milk for our babies, usually without an inkling of support to do so.
Gonçalves’ curiosity spurred her latest project titled Liquid Gold, a series of portraits “exploring women’s relationship with labor while intersecting with the labor of pumping milk for their babies.”
Liquid Gold, in its infancy, depicts professional women– a graduate student, an executive chef, a marine scientist, among others– many head of household, pumping breastmilk in their workspaces.
But this is just the beginning. Gonçalves plans to expand her project, photographing women from all over the nation, looking for intersections in the way working women manage providing milk for their babies. Eventually, Gonçalves plans to juxtapose these portraits with an international framework and combine her findings into a short documentary film.
Gonçalves says that women are “put up against impossible odds” if they want to have a baby and continue working. Liquid Gold’s honest commentary on our nation’s deficient maternity law is challenged perfectly by the subjects’ grim, confrontational expressions.
Gonçalves specifically requested the participants exude their “resting bitch face.”
“This is serious work,” she reminds us of working mothers’ dedication. “We do it because we love our children.”
Working in the visual arts, Gonçalves takes special interest in how the female body is portrayed in our culture. Liquid Gold aims to desexualize the highly sexualized female body and normalize the practice of maintaining lactation.
Gonçalves recalls a time while traveling when her thawing milk began to leak from her bag. TSA questioned the leakage.
“It feels like your panties have fallen out,” Gonçalves says. “It’s weirdly embarrassing, but it shouldn’t be. It should be saluted.”
She hopes Liquid Gold plays a part in celebrating mothers’ ongoing labor and dedication to our children.
“This is a fleeting time in our life,” she says. “It’s important to get the word out about supporting… mothers. It’s really hard to feel like you’re doing enough. [We should be] saluting these moms who are doing everything.”
Most recently, Liquid Gold was showcased at _gaia studio, a women’s art collective, alongside Doris Caçoilo’s work which explores the ongoing role of her body as a source of food and comfort for her son.
If you or someone you know is interested in posing for Liquid Gold, please email Gonçalves at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
You can find more of her work at http://meredithgoncalves.com/.
Photos by Meredith W. Gonçalves. Used with permission.