Exhibition sponsors and partners
The exhibition is supported, in part, by an Artist Initiative Grant awarded by the Minnesota State Arts Board.
On the Nest
Dona Schwartz's On the Nest comprises two distinct but complementary bodies of work; indeed they address both sides of the same coin - that bewildering and emotionally fraught responsibility we have come to call parenting. Schwartz tackles her subject with sensitivity and grace, lightened by a tongue-in-cheek humor.
The first series features portraits of expectant parents; the second, portraits of parents whose children have just left home. In both series, the parents are shown sitting or standing in their children's rooms, and we are given a wide view of these culturally- and psychologically-charged environments. They speak volumes for the expectations and experiences of the parents: in the first series, the rooms reveal their untested ideas of what is necessary to bring a child into the world; - i.e, how to feather that nest. In the second, the exhaustion, both physical and mental, is all too evident in the faces and body language of the parents. Gone are the children, flown from the nest. Inevitably, the first series reads as 'before; the second as 'after'.
One of the strengths of Schwartz's work is that we never do see the children themselves: rather we are encouraged to imagine them, partly as reflections of their parents hopes, and partly as the complex and difficult teenagers that have inevitably become, as their choice of decor suggests. The rooms speak. The compression of the two series also reflects another profound truth: for all parents who have gone through the process, it all seems to have passed by in a flash; those long years of struggle, anxiety, and joy.. all suddenly over.
Not incidentally, the families Schwartz photographs demonstrate the deep changes in American life over the past century, most noticeably in attitudes to race and sexuality. Gay couples, lesbian couples, mixed-race couples, single mothers… On the Nest depicts 21st-century American life in microcosm.
This is a great body of work, a profound commentary on the wonders of bringing the next generation into the world, and then successfully to adulthood. Rarely in photography has the question of family been so thoughtfully examined.