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Judy Price

The Good Enough Mother


As part of The End of the Sentence at Stanley Picker Gallery, artist Judy Price presents an online viewing of The Good Enough Mother (2020).

Originally conceived as a moving-image installation, the piece was commissioned in collaboration with Dorich House Museum and features a bronze sculpture of a baby by Dora Gordine (1895-1991) acquired for the first Mother and Baby Unit at HMP Holloway in 1948. The soundtrack to the film explores the incarcerated pregnancy, drawing on interviews by midwife Dr Laura Abbott, as well as the field work and research of forensic psychotherapist Pamela Windham Stewart. The script, developed with artist & writer Andrew Conio, is re-voiced by actors from Clean Break, a women’s theatre company that uses theatre to keep the subject of women in prison on the cultural radar and whose members have lived experience of the criminal justice system.

Anonymous, HMP Holloway (date unknown). Postcard courtesy Pamela Windham Stewart.

The material and spatial elements of the installation reflected those of Holloway Women’s Prison: the door height, the bench dimensions, and the carpet tiles appropriated from the prison itself. A single photograph of a small yellow fire hose plug is installed at navel height at the entrance of the installation at the Gallery and offers a close examination of some of the less obvious traces of prison control – in the event of a fire in a cell at HMP Holloway, the small yellow plug was removed from the door and a hose inserted blasting water into the cell, before allowing the inmate to evacuate.

Judy Price, Fire Plug (2020). Colour photograph.

For the duration of the exhibition at Stanley Picker Gallery, the original bronze sculpture by Gordine, on loan from the National Justice Museum, will be on display at Dorich House Museum in Kingston, Gordine’s former studio home. Installed in the upstairs gallery of the Museum, its reflection is visible in a convex mirror sourced by Price and Conio to resemble those used with the prison environment. The intervention, titled Reverie, cites psychoanalyst Wilfred R. Bion’s notion of reverie, in which the mother holds and ‘digests’ the baby’s trauma, love, hatred, and reflects back containment. The mirror, a captivating cold glass eye, does not hold, it gives back nothing. Instead, it surveys Smiling Baby and the space as a whole.

Judy Price Reverie (2020) Installation view at Dorich House Museum, Kingston University

Judy Price Reverie (2020) Installation view at Dorich House Museum, Kingston University

Judy Price Reverie (2020) Installation view at Dorich House Museum, Kingston University

One narrative that has emerged about the Gordine sculpture is that it was originally commissioned by a visitor to Holloway Prison, Rosalie Holmes. A surgeon’s wife and art enthusiast, Holmes campaigned for better conditions at the Prison during the 1930’s and 40’s. Paying for the sculpture out of her own pocket, she described the prison as a place “hungry for beauty”. The sculpture installed in the Prison’s Maternity Unit in 1948 was a second cast. The model for the sculpture appears to have been Jasmina Hamzavi (born 1946), the daughter of Abdul ‘Abdy’ Hossein Hamzavi, the Press Attaché for the Iranian Embassy in London. According to Jasmina in an interview with Dr Jonathan Black at Kingston University in 2011, her father asked Gordine to make a bronze figure of his 9-month-old daughter. The Unit was redeveloped in the 1970s and eventually closed in 2013 “due to under-occupancy”. From accounts by staff who worked at the Prison, the sculpture was not on display in the later Mother and Baby Unit but lay forgotten in an administration block until the Prison’s closure in 2016. The sculpture now forms part of the collection at the National Justice Museum in Nottingham.

Film Credits
Judy Price, The Good Enough Mother (2020). Script: Judy Price & Andrew Conio. Filming: Nelson Douglas & Judy Price. Video editing & colour grading: Nelson Douglas. Sound editing: Judy Price & Andrew Conio. Sound sweetening & design: Ben Hurd. Voice actors & scripting: Clean Break (Terri-Ann Oudjar, Edith Emenike & Jennifer Joseph). Duration 26 mins

Laura Abbott, The Incarcerated Pregnancy: An Ethnographic Study of Perinatal Women in English Prisons, unpublished thesis (2018) and Pamela Windham Stewart in various unpublished writing and recorded conversations between Stewart and Price.

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