Stanzie Tooth: Indelible
Writing by Alex Bowron
I cry in my sleep, silently convulsing at the thought of the loss of her, but I would never sleep again if she never left my side. Are we safe here, or are we trapped?
The works in Indelible conceptualize some of the most poetic and contradictory conditions of motherhood. Taking their lead from Tooth’s first-hand experience as a new mother in apocalyptic times, these images depict a complicated entanglement of love, anxiety, loss, and expectation. With a cautious approach to contemporary romanticism, Tooth positions her flattened and partially dissolving bodies in an awkward relationship to their comparatively ornate surroundings. This clumsy affiliation with space is fraught with a disorienting and immersive perspective that mimics the turmoil of growing, birthing, and raising a baby. Holding fast to a cellular kind of love, Tooth toys with nostalgia but ultimately rejects its oversimplification. The dream-like quality of these moments is more of a nightmare; a vitality dulled by the cruel imposition of immense responsibility and an infinitely ferocious fatigue. In these portraits of motherhood, death is looming – the death of sleep, of self, of solitude. As mothers we are loneliest in our realization that we will never again be truly alone.
In Tooth’s world, love is a complex relationship that develops over time and space. Steeped in the smothering beauty of nature, the love of a newborn is in the relentless ambush of tiny hands – kneading skin, nails digging in, leaving marks, mouth latching furiously, draining, warming, calling, haunting. In this world of the most intimate and mutual angst, life is broken down into intervals of interdependent flesh. The new mother’s role is both surprisingly routine and spectacularly alien. It is an alarmingly demanding, high-context performance of normality. While the rest of the world celebrates the arrival of this bundle of joy, the new mother quietly mourns the loss of a solitary existence where she didn’t have something so goddamn precious to lose. The cruelty of having to play out such an astronomical shift of one’s identity in real time is embodied by the distinct confusion of Tooth’s compositions. For every imaginable reason, time has become an incomprehensible abstract. Years might inevitably fly by, but months pass slowly, weeks are unbearably long, days blend together, and minutes move at the pace of continental drift. Facing such an impossible time and still finding meaning there, can only be read as an endearing characteristic of unconditional love.