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Arshile Gorky, The Artist and His Mother | Video in American Sign Language

From Where We Are (ASL)

Apr 18, 2018

An educator discusses The Artist and His Mother by Gorky Arshile in the exhibition Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900–1960

This painting is a portrait of the artist himself, Arshile Gorky, with his mother, which is based on a photograph taken in his native Armenia in 1912, when the artist was just a child.

Three years later, during the Ottoman Turk campaign of genocide against the Armenians, Gorky, his mother, and his younger sister all survived a death march, but his mother never recovered her health. She died in 1919 from starvation. The following year, the fifteen-year-old Gorky immigrated to the United States with his sister. 

In 1926, he began work on this painting. Gorky, however, did not simply copy the photograph, but painted a meditation on remembrance: the white apron worn by Gorky’s mother makes her appear statue-like, and other areas of the painting seem, like memory itself, unfinished and mutable. The figures’ searching gazes lend the composition psychological intensity, eliciting sympathy yet avoiding outright pathos or sentimentality.