This is Madison Young. She is a pornstar, performance artist and a new mother. She runs an incredible gallery in San Francisco called Femina Potens. This is a fully-clothed, non-nude Madison Young breast feeding her daughter Emma. This picture has been causing quite a stir, including accusations of pedophilia and obscenity.
This isn’t an easy picture to read. Madison Young as Mother channeling Marilyn Monroe is challenging, unsettling and incredibly beautiful. One of the things that frightens me about motherhood is the idea that one’s erotic identity doesn’t fit into a life that involves a child. That the energy needed to create life stops being important — or vanishes — once you’ve created life. I can think of few ways of communicating with my partner that would be such a tragedy to lose or endure in diminished form. Madison’s smoky stare has something of this uncertainty of being able to reconcile erotic and maternal identities. As far as @furrygirl’s (whose work I often enjoy) thoughts on who views an image like this (creeps and pedophiles), we can never choose when we are being made objects of other people’s desire.
For the critics of this picture, do we mistrust the sex drive so much that we question one’s ability to be a good mother if she appears sexualized? Do mothers have to negate their sexuality for the safety of their children? Or can some people actually practice a sane, age-appropriate, open education/discourse about the pleasures, responsibilities and complexities of the sex drive and how it folds into questions of gender and power? Can’t we tell the difference between pedophilic imagery and a portrait of motherhood? Jenny Saville‘s drawings of mother and child surely are no less provocative?