Roberta Thornley

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1985

Crying my Mother's Tears (Meme)

  • Purchased, 2011
  • Photograph
  • 960 x 800mm
  • 2011/015
  • 2010

Roberta Thornley made this portrait of her mother after her youngest sister left home. “A house of five girls suddenly empty. It was the first time I had really noticed her vulnerability. I think she had spent thirty years coming home from work to a house full of us, and this was the end of it.” Photographing her mother with bare shoulders, Thornley avoided any reference to time or place, instead allowing her mother’s body to tell the story. As a child, she had liked to run her fingers along the permanent dent a bra strap had left in her mother’s skin. Now, that same mark made her uneasy. “I noticed her thinning skin, which triggered a memory of her franticly mopping up blood from the shin of my grandmother’s leg after she had caught her ninety-year-old paper-thin skin on a rose thorn in the garden. My mother, with her very black hair, was ageing. Near the end of what seemed to be a very long time making this photograph, she cried. She was carrying generations of tears from my grandmother Meme through to me.”

(We do this, 12 May 2018 - 26 May 2019)