We Are Family

Deborah Kelly, The Miracles, 2012, Photograph Courtesy of the Australian Centre of Photography.

Deborah Kelly, The Miracles, 2012, Photograph
Courtesy of the Australian Centre of Photography.

In general, a family is composed of a mother, father, children and extended family. However, the idea of a two-parent family has become less prevalent and alternative family forms have become more common. Over the past decade, the traditional family structure has had to adapt to significant social changes, including divorce and the introduction of single-parent families, teenage pregnancy, unwed mothers, same-sex marriage and increased adoption. The current modern family is presented as multifaceted in the photographs on display as part of We Are Family at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney. The exhibition challenges the definition of the family through concepts involving gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (GLBTIQ) contexts and focuses on the many forms family takes in today’s society, whether pre-existing, chosen or created.

Love is the major installation by Waded in this exhibition. It is depicted with bright colours and light, expressing a joyful moment with her partner Ren and their donor child, Gracie. Love proposes an intimate and spontaneous portrait of the artist’s rainbow family. The use of a traditional portrait composition alongside the ultra contemporary ‘selfie’ indicates the many faces of today’s family. The rainbow symbolises the identity of GLBTI parents. From Waded’s installation, we can find that the family is colourful, fun and global.

Deborah Kelly’s photographs are the major part of this exhibition and attracted the attention of most audiences. The Miracle depicts same and opposite sex couples, transgender, single and multi-generational families whose children have been conceived through Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). This constellation of 37 photomontage portraits is modeled on Renaissance holy family paintings and challenges traditional conceptions of family as well as the nature of religious and historical authority. These photographs express that the children are treasured in each family and, as miracles, they provide an incomparable sense of meaning, purpose and a profound blessing to their parents. Kelly’s photographs are presented in the circular tondo frames and are fashioned after specific Renaissance religious paintings with disputed attribution, authenticity or provenance. Similarly, families that have relied on ART have often been subjected to questions about their origins, both the babies and the families.

Additionally, there is only one work which makes me feel disappointed. Consider Her Ways presents an ugly and brutal image, yet it is ridiculous the way ‘The Twilight Girls’ brandish the powers of the breast and female reproductive capabilities. They use negative and repellent imagery with forceful effect. In my view, this work is too ugly and horrible, and has actually created a negative effect on the visual aesthetic. For these reasons, I think this artwork may not be suitable for children.

This exhibition is a celebration and realisation of diversity and difference in the twenty-first century family. The curator and photographers create the atmosphere that all audiences can feel love, sensitivity and sometimes anger. We Are Family has a symbolic significance for the promotion of GLBTIQ communities. The curator hopes that the exhibition will create a dialogue on what family means today.

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