At the moment, at least five couples that I know of are happily waiting for their baby to be born. In recent articles I have been wondering about the human kind. With that in mind, one might wonder what these children will be like when grown up.
That is one of the pressing questions that seems to pop up when viewing The First People (I-IV)(1990) by artist Marlene Dumas. On each painting (each 90 x 180 cm or 35 7/16 x 70 7/8 inches) Dumas painted one new born with gigantic proportions. Even though she declares the heads are a tiny bit smaller than they should be, the babies still look distorted and agonizing. These art works express the enormity of new life. The monsterly figures suggest a thriving prosperity of growing up as if the frame of a painting is already too small to contain only one baby.
Especially the second one from the left is eminently oppressive. Dumas gave it a white body and on the canvas all possible skin conditions are visible: the head in a gray colored pink and purple, the right arm blueish white, the other one yellow with a dirty pink and again some gray, the lower legs in an unhealthy shade of yellow brown with white feet underneath. With its fists closed and its eyes wildly gazing into the world, it looks as if it is possessed by a demon. The eyes are the windows of the soul, it is said, but what do we actually see in the eyes of the baby? (Van den Boogerd, “Hang-ups and Hangovers in the Work of Marlene Dumas”. Marlene Dumas, Phaidon Press Limited, 1999, p. 57). None of these four figures are even close to the babies as often shown in commercials or advertising.
Even though life is not as happy as shown in commercials or advertising, it is definitely not my intention to spoil the excitement of the parents to be. Let them float on their hormones and expectations of bliss and joy. To add to that, my handmade baby booties are ready for all those newborns to arrive.
And for those who are not too pregnant or – in my case – disabled to go somewhere, visit the retrospective of Marlene Dumas in Amsterdam (Stedelijk Museum). That same exhibition will be shown at the Tate in London in the next year.
The First People (I-IV)(1990) is part of the collection of Museum de Pont, Tilburg (NL), for more information click here;
For more information about other upcoming group or solo exhibitions by Marlene Dumas check her site.
Previously I wrote about the human kind Peace please: Sad Summer (part 1 of 2) and Peace please: Madness (part 2 of 2).
And If you enjoyed this story, you might also like to read: Derailed or Fantastic female Easter Bunnies.
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This post is also available in: Dutch