Andrea Chung’s detailed photographic collages hang on the walls of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Her ornate prints are comprised of cut paper that has been pieced together to form a larger photograph. Chung was born in New Jersey, NY but is of Jamaican/Chinese and Trinidadian descent. The mothers in her collages are always Black women providing love and care to the child she is with, but the exact race and cultural background of the Black women is not provided in the description. Because of Chung’s personal connection to her Blackness but being born in colonized America, her collages always seek to explore the Black body, migration and her personal stories of her ancestors and culture.
From the title of the work to the essence of the materials, Chung’s collage Colostrum II (2020) is about motherhood and the significance of Black women’s labour in breastfeeding and birthing. Colostrum is a noun that describes the first secretion from the mammary glands after birth. Chung pieced together the collage on paper that is handmade from birthcloth. The rest of the materials she used are tactile, sometimes three dimensional and vivid with colour.
In the centre of the paper is a Black woman and a Black baby wrapped onto her back. The clothing on the mother and the baby’s wrap are both beaded with small silver jewels. Ink is painted onto finely cut paper that has been sculpted to resemble living plants. A faux spider plant extends from the centre mother and child. It goes in opposite directions—one on the mothers beaded postpartum stomach, and the other receding from below her and the baby. Additional yellow and red beads go vertically outwards from a drawn red flower and the depicted mothers arm. Atop her head is the last botanical on the print, which sits upon her almost as if it is a crown.
Chung’s work connects to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality. Women, especially those who have been expressly marginalized because of the effects of colonization and racism, require the possibilities and safety that comes with equality, so that they can not only mother their children without fear, but birth them knowing they will receive the proper care from surrounding medical professionals. There is a notable feeling of protection from the mothers in Chung’s collages, as mothering often brings about emotions of empowerment and nurturing.
View her work at the AGO from now until October 1, 2022.